Josh Whitman named Washington University’s new athletics director

He succeeds John Schael, who is retiring after leading the department for 36 years


Josh Whitman has been named the John M. Schael Director of Athletics at Washington University in St. Louis, announced H. Holden Thorp, PhD, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. His appointment is effective Aug. 1.

Whitman will succeed John Schael, who announced in January that he would retire June 30 after 36 years of leading the WUSTL Department of Athletics.

“Josh Whitman is already a respected leader in Division III athletics. His background and accomplishments are ideal for our program,” Thorp said. “The coaches, staff and students who participate in Washington University Athletics will have a strong advocate, careful listener and tireless source of support.”

Whitman arrives on the Danforth Campus after spending the last four years as director of athletics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. In his short time there, Whitman solidified UW-L Athletics as one of the nation’s premier NCAA Division III athletic programs.

Experience in Wisconsin

He guided the Eagles to four national championships and 19 NCAA/National Collegiate Gymnastics Association individual titles. Under his leadership, the Eagles collected 21 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference crowns and finished in the top five at NCAA championship events on 17 occasions. In the 2013-14 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings, UW-L finished 13th nationally.

“I would like to thank Chancellor Mark Wrighton; Provost Holden Thorp; Vice Chancellor for Students Sharon Stahl; and the search committee, chaired by Justin Carroll, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of students, for entrusting me with the awesome responsibility of leading the Washington University athletic program into its new era,” Whitman said. “Their confidence in me is humbling.

Athletic Director Search Committee 2013-14

Justin Carroll, chair
Dedric Carter, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship
Jim Conlon, head coach, women’s soccer
Nancy Fahey, head coach, women’s basketball and senior women’s administrator
Brian Fiedler, executive director of development
Shelby Jordan, ‘74
Alia Fisher Keys, ‘00
Jamie Kolker, assistant vice chancellor for campus planning/director of capital projects
Pam Lokken, vice chancellor, Government and Community Relations
Jackson Nickerson, Frahm Professor of Organization & Strategy, Olin Business School
Nelson Nwumeh, ‘14
Todd Purdy, ’93, ‘97
Lisa Siddens, senior executive assistant to provost and executive vice chancellor
William F. Tate, Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, Arts & Sciences

“I can think of few challenges more daunting than following in the footsteps of John Schael, someone who is as successful as he is beloved,” Whitman said. “I look forward to spending time with John to ensure a smooth transition and working with the institution’s leadership to advance the goals of the university and the athletic program.”

Whitman will be the first to hold the John M. Schael Director of Athletics title, a position the university endowed in tribute to Schael, which Wrighton announced at Schael’s June 3 retirement party. Whitman will lead of staff of 35 full-time employees and oversee 19 varsity sports and more than 600 student-athletes.

A reception to welcome Whitman to the university will be held from 2:30 – 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, in Knight Hall’s Frick Forum. The reception is open to the WUSTL community.

Resource development

Aggressive resource development has been a hallmark of Whitman’s four years leading UW-L Athletics. During his tenure, the operating budget increased nearly 50 percent and he was responsible for soliciting numerous major gifts.

Whitman also launched a corporate sponsorship program that has grown to produce more than $200,000 annually in cash and in-kind support for the athletic program. With these increased resources, Whitman aggressively expanded and improved the department’s staff. He now oversees a full- and part-time professional and student staff of nearly 100. Whitman has hired 14 of these staff members, including five head coaches.

The increase in revenue also resulted in dramatic improvements to facilities. Notable projects include a new gymnastics practice facility, currently in the planning stages ($3.5 million); four new scoreboards, including a stadium video board ($900,000); a renovated baseball facility ($600,000); a new softball facility ($500,000); and a new weight-training facility ($160,000).

“I am excited for the opportunity to lead such a tradition-rich program at one of the world’s great universities. I believe that Washington University sets the national standard for fostering excellence in academics and athletics,” Whitman said.

Potential for the future

“I am anxious to begin working with our talented coaches, staff members and student-athletes to formulate and pursue our program’s vision for the future. Even with the athletic program’s impressive list of past successes, the potential for future growth and achievement is virtually unlimited. To realize that potential, I look forward to engaging the university’s many alumni, friends and supporters all across the country.”

Whitman began his career in athletics administration with his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as the assistant to the athletic director from 2007-08 and as coordinator of special projects from 2005-07.

While at Illinois, Whitman was involved in numerous aspects of the athletic department’s operations, including development, marketing, sports information and communications, internal operations and student-athlete programs.

He also attended the University of Illinois College of Law, earning a juris doctoris, summa cum laude, in May 2008.

After graduating from law school, Whitman served as a law clerk for Judge M.S. Kanne of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He then joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling, which has a nationally recognized sports practice and serves as the primary outside counsel to the National Football League.

“As a scholar-athlete himself, Josh understands what it means to be a true student-athlete. We are so fortunate to have someone with his vision, experience and enthusiasm,” said Carroll, to whom Whitman will report. “Josh is committed to continuing our successful intercollegiate athletic tradition while at the same time expanding fitness and wellness opportunities for all students in the new Sumers Recreation Center.”

Whitman’s background

A native of West Lafayette, Ind., Whitman was an award-winning scholar-athlete at the University of Illinois. He earned a bachelor’s degree, with highest honors, in finance in 2001 and was recognized as a member of the Bronze Tablet (awarded to the top 3 percent of the graduating class).

As a tight end for the Fighting Illini football team, Whitman was a four-year letter-winner and a two-time College Sports Information Directors of America First Team Academic All-America (1999, 2000) selection.

Whitman, who earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Honors as a senior, was one of six Division I-A recipients of the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award in 2000. He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree (1998, 1999, 2000) and was recognized as the Illinois Outstanding Male Scholar-Athlete three consecutive years (1998, 1999, 2000).

Following his graduation from Illinois, Whitman pursued a professional playing career in the NFL. Over a four-year period, he spent time with the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins, as well as with the Frankfurt Galaxy of the now-defunct NFL Europe. He retired from the NFL following the 2004 season.

Whitman, 35, is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and remains licensed to practice law in Illinois and the District of Columbia.