Updates from press conference introducing Whitman as next athletic director

Josh Whitman on August 18, 2014.

By Michal Dwojak

(10:50 a.m.) Whitman said there a lot more similarities than differences between Division III schools and Division I schools. He noted differences in budget, the scholarships and the transportation. Whitman also said he didn’t want to have his parents to pay for his college education, which is what motivated him to work hard and reach the level that he’s achieved. 

Wilson said his contract still being worked on, but he is estimated to earn $600,000 a year, with a 5-year contract and he can earn bonuses for athletic and academic success. 

The press conference has ended.


(10:40 a.m.) Whitman said he hopes Wilson will stay on as chancellor, and said he thought about not knowing who his boss will be when the University names its new chancellor. 

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Whitman said Wilson was encouraging that the University is committed to athletics and he met with the Board of Trustees earlier this week which reinforced its support for him. 

Whitman’s first day as athletic director will be March 21, and he will divide time between Washington University and Illinois. His last day in Washington will be March 4. 

Whitman said he will not interject himself and will stay in his lane. His job is not to be the football coach. He said he needs to support the coach and knows that he needs to support Cubit in any way he can. Whitman said he’s not the savior of Illinois athletics — he’s part of the process that can help lead Illinois athletics back to high levels. Whitman said he’s done a good job of brining the smartest people in the room and asking the right questions. 


(10:30 a.m.) Whitman said it’s important to give everyone something to be excited about and we all need to start to row the boat for this to work. 

He said people want to support a winner and that he’ll continue to reach out to the students and look for opportunities on things already here, such as the Orange Krush and Block I programs. 

Whitman said he met briefly with both Bill Cubit and John Groce and thinks they’re both tremendous coaches. He doesn’t think Division III won’t make a difference if they are dealing with energized people. 

Wilson said that they were looking for a person who had everything: media presence, understanding importance of athletics and academics and numerous other things. Wilson said when she met with Whitman that she didn’t take notes, knowing she was looking at the new Illinois athletic director.

Whitman recognized there were challenges before the search process started. He said some of the things that have happened have put the University in a bad light, and it was a concern for him and other alums, but he’s excited to set the proper standards.


(10:25 a.m.) Whitman met with entire DIA staff this morning and told them about how he felt driving down Florida Avenue and seeing the stadium for the first time. 

He challenged the stuff, student-athletes and Illini fans to never take all of this for granted, calling it a special place. He then pointed at his old helmet and the nicks on it, stating they represent the work that everyone needs to do. 

He listed three goals, starting with student-athletes. He said they want to change the lives of student-athletes and decide what’s in the best interest of the student-athletes, adding they will be in the forefront of all decisions. 

Secondly, he hopes to inspire an Illini nation. 

“It is a tremendous opportunity to support this great opportunity. Our job is to rally this support and give them something to be proud of,” Whitman said. “I look forward to getting around the state and the country, listening to their concerns, and building a program that they will be proud of.”

Thirdly, he said the Illini will win. 

“Our student athletes are the best,” he said. “We will provide them with the facilities and the possibilities to be better than they imagined that can be. We will win. It’s not an overnight fix, but we will start today. We need everyone. The bigger Illini nation grows, the better we will be. We are part of what we hope is an incredibly successful puzzle. We need to find new energy to our fanbase.”


(10:20 a.m.) Whitman thanked numerous other close people and said it has been unbelievable to see the support from them, such as Ron Guenther, former athletic director. Whitman also wanted to thank his former teammates and said it was humbling the last few days to get the support. 

Whitman called Washington University an incredible institution and thanked all the coaches and student-athletes at the school. 

Whitman said he’s lived this moment many times during his life. This job is something he’s always wanted to do and everything he’s done has led him to this moment. He said there were challenges on the way, but he’s humbled to be here and hopes that it’s the last job he’ll ever have. 


(10:14 a.m.) Whitman said it’s unbelievable to see the jerseys and the colors again. 

“These search processes are weird. It’s like you’re in a movie set. There’s no feed back. You don’t really know until the end how the process went,” he said. 

He thanked his wife, and said he’s excited for the Champaign community to get to know her more than himself. One of their first dates was the Mizzou Braggin’ Rights game a year ago. We moved quickly, and then we came back and she realized how important this place is to me. 

He also recognized his parents. 

“I won the lottery,” he said. “They watched as many games in that stadium as I’ve played. No matter the outcome and the performance, I knew those people were going to up in the stands.” 


(10:07 a.m.) Wilson said Josh is the full package. 

“We were looking for someone with integrity. Someone is open to diversity issues is and how academic excellence can go hand-to-hand with athletics. I’m learning more about athletics and the stability that requires it. Plus we got an Illini guy,” she said, before passing the microphone off to Whitman. 

Whitman thanked Wilson, and said his first order of business is to try to keep her as the chancellor. He thanked her for the leadership she provides, along with thanking President Timothy Killeen and Matt Wheeler, who headed the search committee. 


(10:05 a.m.) Wilson began the press conference stating that she is delighted to be at this point and thanked the search committee for their hard work and moving quickly. She said after finding a search firm, Korn Ferry, they began a very thorough process and the committee had a great experience with the firm. 

“We looked for the criteria that is important for this position. Many people said you’re looking for someone who walks on water. I said, yes we are and I think yes we did. We are grateful for finding this great person,” Wilson said.

She also thanked Interim Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk for providing stability in his position for just over five months. 


(9:45 a.m.) The Daily Illini sports staff will be attending a press conference held at 10 a.m. introducing Josh Whitman as the next athletic director of the University.

Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building’s Hall of Fame Room is set up for the press conference. Whitman and Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson will come up to stage at around 
10 a.m. when Wilson will introduce the new Illini athletic director. Both will have opening statements and will follow up with answers to questions. 

Check back for updates throughout the conference and follow
@pbaileywells, @mdwojak94 and @di_sports.

Whitman started his morning earlier today by posting several photos on his Twitter. 

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