Meet your new Illinois athletic director: Josh Whitman

By Michal Dwojak, Staff writer

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 and was 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 list 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.

“Orange and blue is in his bloodstream, and he is committed to the U. of I. for the long run,” University President Tim Killeen said in a press release. “He will take the Illini athletics program to great success, and he’ll have all my support.”

During his law studies, Whitman began his administrative career at Illinois, serving as coordinator of special projects from 2005 to 2007. He then served as assistant to the athletic director from 2007 to 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 in June of 2014, and has contributed to its success in various ways. Whitman helped 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.

“It is a dream come true for me to return to my alma mater as the next director of athletics,” Whitman said via press release. “I will work tirelessly to achieve our goals. The future is bright for the Illini.”

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.

[email protected]

@mdwojak94