Josh Whitman began as Washington University in St. Louis’ inaugural John M. Schael Director of Athletics in August 2014. In his role, Whitman has direct oversight of WashU’s nationally competitive intercollegiate athletics program, featuring 500 student-athletes competing in 19 varsity sports. Prior to arriving in St. Louis, Whitman enjoyed a diverse career as an athletics administrator, attorney, and professional football player.
Since arriving on the Danforth campus, Whitman has moved aggressively to build on the foundation left by his predecessor, the legendary John Schael, who retired in 2014 after 36 years in the position. The results have been positive: seven Top 5 team finishes in NCAA competition, including a National Runner-Up finish for women’s soccer in 2015, and 10 University Athletic Association (UAA) crowns, all culminating in a fourth-place finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup in 2015. It was the school’s ninth-consecutive Top-5 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup finish. Away from the competitive arena, WashU’s student-athletes continue to excel as well, with a graduation rate of 99% and a combined student-athlete grade-point average exceeding 3.35.
In his first 18 months on the job, Whitman implemented a growth plan that resulted in hiring 15 new staff members, including three top administrators, two head coaches, and the first strength and conditioning coach in the program’s history. He also launched a strategic reorganization of the department, highlighted by the creation of a five-person Senior Leadership Team that collaborates on the management of the department’s 50 full-time employees, financial resources, and day-to-day operations.
Whitman has been heavily involved in the final design and construction of the new Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center, a $55 million facility for use by the WashU community. The 100,000 square-foot facility, scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, will be the centerpiece of the athletic department’s facilities portfolio and will feature a new sports medicine suite, locker rooms, meeting spaces, and offices, along with comprehensive facilities for campus recreation and fitness.
Whitman travels extensively to connect with WashU’s large, successful, and passionate base of alumni, parents, and fans across the country. He provides strategic direction to a team of full-time fundraising professionals and, together, they work to meet the department’s fundraising goals, including an annual fund that approaches $1 million annually and a capital campaign of $30 million.
With the construction of the Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center, Whitman also has responsibility for the university’s expanding opportunities in the areas of recreation and fitness, including intramural sports, sport clubs, and physical education. He has launched the Office of Recreation Programs & Services, led by new director Bryan Lenz, to provide direction and structure to these critical areas.
Prior to taking the helm at WashU, Whitman served four years as the Director of Athletics at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, another leading program in NCAA Division III. While at UW-L, Whitman guided the Eagles to four national championships and 19 individual national titles. Under his leadership, UW-L collected 21 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) crowns and finished in the top-five at NCAA championship events on 17 different occasions. In Whitman’s final year at UW-L, the Eagles finished 13th in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup.
Aggressive resource development was a hallmark of Whitman’s time at UW-L. During his tenure, the operating budget increased nearly 50 percent, and he was responsible for soliciting numerous major gifts. He also launched a corporate sponsorship program that grew to produce more than $200,000 annually in cash and in-kind support for the athletic program.
The increase in revenue resulted in dramatic improvements to staffing and facilities. At the time of Whitman’s departure from UW-L, he oversaw a full and part-time professional and student staff of nearly 100. Notable facility projects featured four new scoreboards, including a stadium video board; a renovated baseball facility; a new softball facility; and a new weight training facility.
Whitman began his career in athletics administration with his alma mater, the University of Illinois, where he served as the Assistant to the Athletic Director from 2007-08 and 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.
While in Champaign, Whitman attended the University of Illinois College of Law. He received his Juris Doctor, summa cum laude, in May 2008. Upon graduation from law school, Whitman served as a law clerk for the Honorable M.S. Kanne on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He then joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, which has a nationally recognized sports practice and serves as the primary outside counsel to the National Football League.
A native of West Lafayette, Ind., Whitman was a decorated scholar-athlete as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree with highest honors in finance in 2001, when he was recognized as a member of the Bronze Tablet, awarded to the top three percent of the graduating class. As a tight end for the Fighting Illini football team, Whitman was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time First-Team Academic All-American, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Whitman, who earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Honors as a senior, was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and was recognized as Illinois’ Outstanding Male Scholar-Athlete three consecutive years. He culminated his college career as a recipient of the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award.
Following his graduation from Illinois, Whitman pursued a professional playing career in the NFL. Over four years, 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, 37, is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and remains licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois and the District of Columbia.
He and his wife, Hope, live in Clayton.