Meet Illinois’ new athletic director: Josh Whitman

Josh Whitman on August 18, 2014.

By Michal Dwojak

Now that the University of Illinois has announced that Josh Whitman will be the school’s next athletic director, it’s a good time to learn who the new leader of Illinois athletics is.

Whitman’s ties to Illinois started in 1997 when he first lined up at tight end for Ron Turner. He finished his four-year career with 52 receptions and seven touchdowns but was also a two-time Verizon/CoSida Academic All-American.

The tight end was not drafted but had a four-year, NFL career, splitting time with the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins. His official stats among a few websites have Whitman with four games played for the Chargers in 2001, with one kickoff reception for nine yards.

After finishing his time playing professional football, Whitman knew he wanted to continue his education and did so when he enrolled into the University’s College of Law in 2005.

“I knew I was going to go back to school, but I wasn’t sure for what,” Whitman told in a 2008 interview. “So I gave myself a lot of time to think about it. I compared the MBA program to the law school program. I thought about which degree would most fit my interests. I felt like law school would give me a lot of flexibility down the road to do a lot of different things.”

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During his law studies, Whitman began his administrative career at Illinois, serving as coordinator of special projects from 2005-2007. He then served as assistant to the athletic director from 2007-2008. Whitman dealt with marketing, sports information and communication and internal operations.

He graduated from the College of Law in 2008 and served as a law clerk for M.S. Kanne on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Court. He also joined the Washington, D.C., law firm Covington & Burling LLP, which is well known for its counsel work with the NFL.

Whitman returned to athletic administrative in 2011 when he became the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a Division III program. The program had four national championships and finished in the top-five in NCAA championship events 17 times.

He became the Washington University in St. Louis athletic director on June 4, 2014, and has contributed to its success in various ways. Whitman helped in the in the final design and construction of the school’s Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center.

Whitman will have plenty on task at Illinois. He will need to make coaching decisions in both football and men’s basketball in the coming year, while also trying to repair the department’s image after a couple of investigations and lawsuits.

He will also look over the final phase of the State Farm Center renovations while also looking for the funding of the south end zone and east side of Memorial Stadium. His job will likely start by talking to donors, to make sure they know his plans and how he plans on helping repair the department when the University searches for a new chancellor and provost.

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