James J. Phillips - Vice President for Athletics & Recreation
James J. Phillips became Northwestern's 21st director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation on April 14, 2008, bringing with him a track record of success at the Division I level and a commitment to the values Northwestern always has maintained in collegiate athletics.
One of 10 children from a middle-class family and a native of the Portage Park neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago, Phillips has proven to be the perfect fit to head up Northwestern's 19-sport program in the nation's No. 3 market. His deep Windy City roots and family orientation are an integral part of his core philosophy of providing student-athletes with a "world-class experience" that enables them to succeed academically, socially and athletically.
In June of 2012, Phillips was honored as the Under Armour Central Region Athletic Director of the Year. In addition, as a reflection of the respect he has earned from the industry and his peers, Phillips was selected 3rd Vice President of the National Association of Collegiate Director's of Athletics (NACDA) in June of 2011. He will serve in that capacity for a year before becoming 2nd Vice President in 2012-13, 1st Vice President in 2013-14 and eventually serving as the President of NACDA in 2014-15 -- a first for a Northwestern AD.
The 2011-12 academic year was Phillips' second as the Athletic Director Chair of the Big Ten Conference, representing the league's A.D.'s on the Executive Committee of the B1G Joint Group, while he simultaneously worked as a member of the Rose Bowl Management Committee. He is also currently serving on the NCAA Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet, and as an athletic mentor in the NCAA Pathway Program.
Academically, Wildcat student-athletes have had banner years with Phillips at the helm. A school-record 206 Wildcats were named Academic All-Big Ten in 2011-12, marking the second-straight year NU has received more than 200 such awards. In the NCAA's most-recent Academic Progress Rating (APR) data, Northwestern's football program led both Division I FBS and FCS schools with a score of 997. Eight NU programs earned perfect 1,000 scores in the multi-year rate while an additional eight teams had perfect 1,000 totals for the 2010-11 data cycle. Wildcats student-athletes earned a combined overall GPA of 3.19 for the 2011-12 academic year, the highest figure in school history.
Northwestern continues to be among the nation's leaders in community service under Phillips. During the 2011-12 academic year, all 486 Northwestern student-athletes participated in some form of community service, with the group totaling well over 5,000 combined hours for the fourth consecutive year. In June of 2012 that initiative stretched to department staff when more than 100 participated in the inaugural staff community service day at five different locations around Evanston. Northwestern also welcomed over 1,000 local school children to campus to tour athletic facilities and meet-and-greet student-athletes. Student-athletes are participating in the Undergraduate Leadership Program, receiving leadership coaching by the Center on Leadership Fellows, attended the APPLE Conference in 2011 and have been selected to attend the DERU Conference.
Phillips has pursued an aggressive and progressive plan to ensure success both on and off the field of play, embarking on a number of major projects at Northwestern. One of his first actions was to begin the implementation of a Department of Athletics and Recreation re-organization that was completed in January of 2009. The athletic department's existing infrastructure was broken into three key areas: internal, external and student-athlete welfare.
In the external area in 2010, Northwestern launched the first wide-ranging marketing campaign in the history of the athletic department. The campaign, with the tagline "Chicago's Big Ten Team," aimed at building brand awareness and driving ticket sales over a multi-year time frame.
To raise awareness of Northwestern's brand in Chicagoland, Phillips moved a pair of Northwestern home events into the city of Chicago. In 2009, the Wildcats' baseball team defeated Notre Dame at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox. In 2010, Phillips signed a deal for Northwestern to face Illinois at Wrigley Field on November 20 in what was the first football game at the "Friendly Confines" since 1970 and the first college football game at the venue since 1938. Phillips has since solidified NU's relationship with the historic North Side franchise, announcing in 2013 a reciprocal event and marketing agreement with the Cubs that will provide opportunities for numerous NU programs to stage competitions at the venue in coming years. Another coup for Phillips came in 2011 when he negotiated a contract to play a home-and-home series with Notre Dame beginning in 2014, marking the first time those two programs will meet since NU's historic win in South Bend in 1995.
Northwestern and Under Armour began a historic and unprecedented multi-year partnership in 2012 that designates Under Armour as the official outfitter of the university's athletic program. The partnership represents Under Armour's first outfitter agreement with an athletic program that competes in the Big Ten Conference. Under Armour, the leader in performance apparel, footwear and accessories, will outfit all of Northwestern's 19 men's and women's varsity athletic teams beginning with the 2012-13 season.
Northwestern's revenues are at an all-time high under Phillips. NU's football season-ticket base is at its highest in 13 years after growing more than 60 percent over the last three seasons. During the 2011 campaign the Wildcats hosted the largest crowd in the history of Ryan Field in its current configuration, welcoming 47,330 on October 8 for a game against Michigan. Men's basketball season ticket sales are up 34 percent over the last three years, and Northwestern has posted the sixth-largest increase in the nation in average attendance over the last four seasons.
The department posted significant gains in average attendance across the board in 2011-12 relative to the 2010-11 campaign, including a 37 percent increase for women's basketball, a 20 percent jump in wrestling, an increase of 26 percent in volleyball, a 66 percent rise for baseball and a 45 percent improvement for the women's lacrosse program which ranked second in the nation in attendance. In addition, Development has established positive trends in donor cultivation and engagement.
Along with the landmark Under Armour agreement, the department has signed major corporate sponsorship deals with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, BMO Harris Bank, Gatorade and Coca-Cola while transitioning to Learfield Sports as its multimedia rights holder in March of 2011 and re-branding the entity Northwestern Sports Properties (NSP). That group has tripled NU's corporate sponsorships in the last two years.
Phillips launched the first master facility plan study in Northwestern history in November of 2010 and, on Sept. 15, 2012, announced approval by the Board of Trustees of plans to build a major complex for athletic and recreational activities and a new parking structure on the north end of NU's main Evanston campus. The centerpiece of the complex will be an indoor multipurpose facility to provide room for major events, training and competition space for varsity programs and enhanced recreation areas that will affect all members of the Northwestern University community. In December, Phillips and President Schapiro announced an unprecedented series of lead gifts -- together worth more than $70 million -- in support of the project.
Northwestern's Fitness & Recreation unit has grown as an integral part of the overall collegiate experience for many students, offering intramural sports as well as clubs and classes. The department services undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni across the Northwestern community, providing accessible, fun and innovative ways to live healthy and well. The 33 sport clubs served 1,052 undergraduate students during the 2011-12 academic year, while the intramural sport program had 9,494 participants during the campaign.
On the field, Northwestern has achieved historic success across the department. The football program has earned a bowl berth in five straight seasons -- most recently recording a victory over Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013 -- while men's basketball has made four consecutive postseason appearances. Women's lacrosse has won seven of the last eight NCAA National Championships, women's tennis has compiled a string of 14-straight years with a Big Ten title, and men's soccer captured both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships in 2011. In Phillips' time at Northwestern, women's lacrosse, softball, men's golf, women's fencing, men's soccer, women's tennis and wrestling all have won team or individual conference championships.
To sustain that success, Phillips has worked to solidify the leadership of each program, securing Pat Fitzgerald (football), Kelly Amonte Hiller (women's lacrosse) and Tim Lenahan (men's soccer) with contract extensions. In June of 2009, he inked Fitzgerald to a new seven-year deal, then extended that contract to 10 years in May of 2011 -- keeping one of the finest players in school history on the Wildcats' sideline through at least 2020. Amonte Hiller took charge of the women's lacrosse program when it returned from club status in 2002 and has built NU into a dynasty with seven national championships. Lenahan has mentored his program to NCAA tourney appearances in six of the last eight seasons, twice reaching the NCAA quarterfinals. In 2011, men's soccer achieved the Big Ten double by capturing both the regular season and tournament titles.
In addition, Phillips elevated a pair of young Northwestern assistants to head coaching positions, naming Jarod Schroeder the men's swimming and diving head coach in 2009 and NU graduate Drew Pariano the wrestling head coach in 2010.
He also recruited sought-after head coaches Tracey Fuchs (field hockey), Joe McKeown (women's basketball), and Michael Moynihan (women's soccer) to Evanston. Fuchs had arguably the most successful playing career in the history of USA Field Hockey and has been referred to as the "Michael Jordan of field hockey." McKeown came to the Wildcats after 19 years as the head coach at The George Washington University, where he took his team to the postseason 17 times. Moynihan arrived at Northwestern in 2012 following a remarkable 15-year stint as the head coach at Milwaukee where he coached the Panthers to 13 Horizon League championships, including 12 in a row, and nine NCAA tournament appearances.
Individually, student-athletes have won the Tewaaraton Trophy in women's lacrosse (Hannah Nielsen, Shannon Smith), the Big Ten Wayne Duke Award (Mark Ison and Drew Ratner), the Hodge Trophy in wrestling (Jake Herbert) and the Big Ten Conference awards for male and female athletes of the year (Jake Herbert in 2009 and Shannon Smith in 2011, respectively). Since Phillips' arrival in 2008, 33 Wildcats have received first-team All-America honors, 30 have picked up conference Player, Coach or Freshman of the Year accolades and 14 have been named CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
In June of 2009, Phillips was asked to serve on the NCAA Champions Forum panel, a group of football coaches and athletics directors making an effort to increase the hiring and awareness of minority football coaches. He is a member of the NACDA Executive Committee, the World Sport Chicago Board, the NCAA Fellows Leadership Development Program and previously served on Chicago's bid committee for the 2016 Olympic Games. Phillips currently instructs a course entitled "Comprehensive Perspectives for Leading a Sports Entity" in Northwestern's Kellogg School of Business and has previously lectured in the Northwestern School of Continuing Studies' Master's in Sports Administration program.
Prior to arriving in Evanston, Phillips served as Northern Illinois' athletic director for four years beginning in 2004. During that time, the Huskies had unprecedented athletic success and consistent academic achievements. On July 1, 2006, Phillips was promoted to associate vice president, in addition to his director of athletics title, after already being recognized by his peers in the Mid-American Conference with his selection to serve as chairman of the MAC Athletic Directors' Council. He was honored with the 2007 General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director of the Year award while at NIU, and was a member of the NCAA Women's Basketball committee during his time in the MAC.
Phillips was extraordinarily successful in fundraising and marketing at Northern Illinois. He spearheaded the fundraising and construction of the $14-million Yordon Academic and Athletic Performance Center at NIU, the largest capital project in the athletic department's history, and led several successful fundraising campaigns for athletics. In addition, the Huskies opened an indoor practice facility for baseball, softball and men's and women's golf, and began construction in the spring of 2008 on a new soccer/track and field complex.
During Phillips' tenure in DeKalb, he was instrumental in scheduling high-profile football games against Michigan and Ohio State that resulted in national television appearances for NIU. He also negotiated playing the University of Iowa in 2007 at Soldier Field in Chicago as a home game at NIU, a game that sold out in less than a week. In addition, Phillips negotiated a multi-year radio rights agreement for WSCR-AM (The Score) in Chicago to carry football, men's basketball and a weekly NIU live radio show discussing all Huskie athletic programs. Phillips also negotiated a television deal with Comcast SportsNet Chicago to carry football games and a weekly show called Inside Huskie Sports.
Phillips helped secure the 2007 NCAA Men's Golf Central Regional, which the Huskies hosted at the new home of NIU golf, Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
A 1990 graduate of the University of Illinois, Phillips started his career as a manager and student assistant in Illinois' athletic department. He earned a master's degree in education at Arizona State University while serving as a restricted earnings basketball coach during a period in which the Sun Devils reached the postseason in five-straight years.
Phillips also holds a Ph.D. in educational administration from Tennessee, which he completed in the summer of 2007. Phillips served as an assistant athletics director with the Volunteers until 2000. He directed a $12.4 million annual athletics giving program, and was directly responsible for identifying, cultivating and soliciting all major gifts and donations for the Volunteer athletic program. He helped originate the first-ever capital campaign for athletics at UT that raised more than $50 million for endowments, facilities and programs. In addition, he supervised several athletic programs and a variety of other areas.
Phillips then moved to the University of Notre Dame in 2000, where he served as associate director of athletics and senior associate director of athletics for external affairs. During 2002-03, he helped launch the Rockne Heritage Fund, which became the first athletics annual fund that directly benefited student-athlete grant-in-aid scholarships. In addition, he managed the ticket office, various corporate sponsorships, athletic programs and a weekly Irish radio show.
At the same time, Phillips played an integral part in the funding of a new $24-million, 96,000-square foot athletics facility. At Notre Dame, Phillips directed all phases of the athletics community relations program and helped develop new institutional and departmental advancement programs.
Phillips and his wife, Laura, have five children: Luke, Madeline, Meredith, John and James.
The Phillips family (clockwise from top left): Luke, Madeline, Jim, John, Meredith, James and Laura