Virtual Town Hall – Featuring Director of Athletics Josh Whitman

Well good evening everybody and welcome to the second University of Illinois Town Hall Series hosted by our University of Illinois Alumni Association My name is Josh Whitman some of you may know me but I’m a two-time graduate of our University with degrees in finance and law. I’m a former football player and I now have the great pleasure of just starting my fifth year as the athletic director here in Champaign Urbana. I’m very honored to host this event and following in the the big footsteps of our president dr. Tim Killeen and hope that I can offer a few insights into our athletic program and look forward to what the answering your your questions as we get into the discussion this evening. As a reminder if you do have questions or comments I think you’re able to hit star three on your keypad and follow the prompts and we’ll get your questions as we can. But a lot of exciting and notable things going on with the athletic program. I thought I might start out just realizing that there are different people probably on the line with different levels of understanding or awareness of our athletic program but I might give you just a quick overview of Illinois athletics here at University of Illinois We sponsor 21 sports at the Division one level. 11 women’s sports 10 men’s sports we are proud founding members of the Big Ten Conference which now of course has 14 schools and continue to be very proud members of one of the great long-standing tradition rich conferences in college athletics We have 500 student athletes participating in our program of those 500 athletes approximately 300 or 400 of them are receiving the equivalent of two hundred and fifty eight point five full scholarships it’s been divvied out amongst them. Those scholarships collectively cost the athletic program over thirteen million dollars a year. We we actually pay probably call off-the-rack prices in-state out-of-state international to our student athletes for their their tuition to the various colleges in which they’re enrolled here on our campus makes us one of if not the largest scholarship providers on the U of I campus we’re very very proud of that On the business side we have more than 300 staff members with a full spectrum of specialties including marketing, fundraising, event management, facilities, business operations, compliance on down the list. Last year our in terms of our budget and we bought in just shy of one hundred and fifteen million dollars in revenue. I think it’s important to note that none of those dollars come from state of Illinois allocated funds. In fact our revenues come from a variety of sources but our three largest revenue sources are our ticket sales, our donations and private gifts and then third our largest revenue source now is distributions from our conference big ten which are derived from media rights fees monies that we receive from our bowl game partnerships and distributions from the Big Ten’s football championship game the men’s basketball tournament and in the NCAA basketball tournament As you think about the the athletic program we have a very simple mission statement and it’s four words Unify Develop Inspire Achieve and in our vernacular our mission statement is our purpose and so more specifically we intend to try and create an experience for our student-athletes that changes their lives. That prepares them for whatever will come next after their time on our campus is over. Along the way we intend to field championship caliber athletic teams, and we want to create an experience for our fans for our alumni for our community that brings people together, enriches their lives and hopefully connects them to our university. Although a big part of what our student-athletes do certainly involves their competitive pursuits and that’s probably the part that receives the most public attention. I think it’s it’s important that we note at the outset that they are unquestionably taking full advantage of the opportunity they have here to receive an education for more the great universities in the world Each spring we graduate over 100 student athletes with University of Illinois degrees, and in the fall I thought it was a great example of the academic commitment that our student athletes show they posted a combined GPA of 3.24 which was one of the highest GPAs on record for our student-athletes. It was the 19th consecutive semester that our student-athletes have posted a combined GPA over 3.0 in about two-thirds of our student-athletes earn a GPA of a 3.0 or above and in fact in the fall we had 34 of them earning a perfect 4.0. As we turn our attention here I might want to

remind folks just again in terms of the prompt and how to access if you have questions or comments feel free to hit star 3 on your keypad. You know when I was hired in the spring of 2016 I tried to stress to the public, our fans, our staff our students that we really wanted to build a program with a strong foundation As those of you who know have followed our program for some time you know that we’ve been to the top of the mountain we’ve just struggled at different points and times to stay there We’ve been to the Rose Bowl we’ve been the Sugar Bowl we’ve been to the Final Four but particularly in football and men’s basketball it’s been a little bit of an up-and-down ride. As we entered our tenure here it was important to me that we build something with a strong base that ultimately would be sustainable and allow us to endure at a high level. And and when we did that we really focused on this year we felt like the 2019/2020 year would would be the opportunity that we needed to turn the corner in those two highest profile sports of a moment basketball, and the good news is I think that we’ve we’ve done that. Football returned to a postseason bowl game for the first time in five years. One thing that I think is worth noting if you haven’t heard about this yet we do have an exciting opportunity we announced this last year to go play a football game in Ireland Our football team was selected to play the University of Nebraska in the Air’ Lingus classic. Which will be held in Dublin Ireland in August of 2021. Our advance team just got back from spending four days over in Dublin and came back raving about what that experience would mean, not just for our student-athletes but for our fans and for our alumni. So I’d encourage you if you haven’t already to check out that on our website Illini2ireland.com with the number two. But a great opportunity for us to go across the pond and share the orange and blue with some people in the Irish culture. On the basketball side you may have seen today our team is now ranked number 23 in the country. We remain in contention as we enter the last week of the regular season to still try and capture that Big Ten championship, and we’re poised to earn our first bid the NCAA tournament since 2013. In light of all that success today we’re really proud to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to extend coach Underwood’s contract. His original deal when we brought him on board in 2017 was for six years and this extended amount by three years to 2026 Really pleased with the leadership that he’s provided we also are doing extensions for his staff. Excited about the upward trajectory of men’s basketball and wanted to be sure that we brought some stability to that to that program and looking forward to the great future that they have. I think it’s notable I’m just really thankful to our fans to our donors who have remained steadfast with us through some some challenging times. I’m so excited now to share in some of these successes and to have the smiles and to see the energy around our events, and in the positive support that’s outpouring for our student-athletes. I hope some of you are familiar with the join the fight campaign. We launched that about a year ago it’s been on billboards all over the state on television on the radio online Really a campaign that’s meant to be a call to action a rallying cry. We want people to participate in supporting our program whether it’s for buying tickets making donations to our i fund or something as simple as flying a flag or wearing an illinois sweatshirt We need people to be a part of what we’ve undertaken here and we’re so grateful to so many of you who have already chosen to do that. On the ticket side when you talk about joining the fight we’ve had a lot of people who have done that here over the last year. We’ve exceeded our revenue goal in all of our four ticketed sports football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball In men’s basketball our ticket revenues up over 25 percent year-over-year we’ve sold out five of our final six home games. It’s just incredible excitement those of you who are able to be in the building with us yesterday for the gaming it’s Indiana. One of the great atmospheres that I’ve seen in that building we striped it with the orange and blue in just a great testament to our fans. I had one of our our Sports Information people said you know in order for this to happen in the NBA you’d have to give everybody a t-shirt And for our fans to show up the way they did and to coordinate themselves it really made for an eye-opening experience I think for everybody who was there On the fundraising side our development staff has just done a fantastic job as most of you know we’re in the midst of a capital campaign here at the University of Illinois, the With Illinois campaign. The overall all

goal for our campus is 2.25 billion dollars with a B. The athletic program has been asked to raise 300 million of that total and thus far we’re about 80 percent of the way toward our goal with around two years left to go in the campaign. So incredibly proud of that progress and excited about the the generosity that so many people have have shown. Just in the last two fiscal years as an example we’ve succeeded in bringing in over 80 million dollars in gifts and pledges, and again very humbled by the willingness of people to step forward with such generosity to support our student-athletes. We’ve announced four leave naming gifts here over the last several years for various facilities projects and our annual fund is now is now growing I mentioned that 13 million dollar tuition bill we use our Annual Fund each year to offset as much of that as we can it wasn’t too long ago that our Annual Fund which we call the I fund actually covered the entire scholarship cost for all of our student-athletes. But as costs have gone up the I fund hasn’t been able to keep pace. So we have a goal now to increase the 10,000 donors to the I fund. We’re around 5,000 now so we want to try and double that over the next 2 years To give you some comparison Purdue has around ten thousand donors to their Annual Fund Indiana has around fifteen thousand so we’ve got some work to do We’re going to challenge people to to step forward and support our student athletes I think it’s a great opportunity for us to rally around the work being done by the young men and women wearing our uniform and providing great pride for our institution. A big focus of ours here in these first few years of my tenure has been our facilities. Over the last two years alone we’ve opened our announced plans for facilities in football, soccer, men’s and women’s track and field. men’s women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf. All those were things that were time and we needed to provide those resources to support our student athletes our coaches. The one big project that’s still out there the one that I’d love to get off the ground I could ask about it every time I speak in public is the addition of Division one hockey here at the University of Illinois. This would be the first new Division one sport that we’ve added here in over 20 years. What I’ve learned is that hockey is a big deal here in the state of Illinois up in Chicago in particular down in the st. Louis region. We have the sixth highest youth hockey participation rate of any state in the country in and it’s not just quantity but it’s quality as well. We have the fourth most Division one hockey players coming out of the state of Illinois of any state in the country but we have a zero Division one hockey programs and so we think there’s a great opportunity there for us to fill that void. And for me I’m just as excited about what this facility a new multi-purpose downtown arena could mean for our existing support programs and volleyball, wrestling, men’s and women’s gymnastics and also for our student body Which would have access to for all their ice programming in the facility and for our community. Especially as the father of two young kids the idea of them growing up in there around the Ice Arena learning how to skate learning how to play hockey and enjoying all the things that a facility like that would bring I think would be pretty exciting Not to mention the economic benefit it would have for all of Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding communities. Before I conclude the opening statement here just a reminder if you have questions comments I believe that the access point is star three on your phone and we love the would love to hear from you but to wrap up opening comments here just incredible time to be a part of our Fighting Illini athletic program. I really believe that our future is incredibly bright. We want to continue to use these athletic program to shine a bright light on all the incredible things that are happening here at our University I really believe that that’s one of the big purposes for our athletic program, is to is to use athletics to to highlight the wonderful things that are occurring every single day. Whether you talk about the new Carle Illinois College of Medicine that the Discovery Partners Institute the new Siebel Center for Design. Obviously the transformative Gies gift to the College of Business the new Illinois Commitment Program there’s so many exciting things underway on our campus, and we know that there’s innovation and life-changing research that’s happening every day from our faculty and our students. And if we can use athletics to tell the world about the University of Illinois then we’ve done our job. So again thanks for for the time tonight and look forward to answering your questions so again star three on your keypad and look forward to what’s a seeing what we can do here Yeah great here we go! Okay it looks like we’ve got a call here from Michael

Yes, oh hi Michael how are you? Hey how’s it going thanks you for having a call and thanks for the info. I’m curious such a great year what can we do to convince Ayo and Kofi to come back next year? That’s a great question and one that I think certainly our coaching staff is going to spend a lot of time on. I think it’s important for us to make sure that we’re doing what’s in the best interests of both Ayo and Kofi. And so we’ll certainly do our part to make sure that they’re making an informed decision, and everybody of course has different points in their life where they have to make these big decisions and we want them to do it with with their eyes open about what continues to exist for them here on our campus and what the opportunities might look like if they were to turn professional. You know I think that certainly we believe in the experience that we’re providing them. I think that they’d have another year of physical development of skill development and a great opportunity candidly to come back in on a team that I think would be very highly rated coming into the preseason I think there will be a lot of expectation around the team next year/ So you just never know what’s going to going to click with with any individual what might be going on in their personal lives with their families with their communities We’ll certainly do everything we can to make sure that those young men have full information and make the best decision for their own interest and hopefully that decision lines up with what would be in the university’s best interest as well thank you Thank you. Looks like next question is from Ron. Yeah Josh, you may have already answered this but I just wanted to make sure with the extension for Coach Underwood we were taking care of our assistants we we need those recruiters for sure. Thanks for the question absolutely yeah that was a that was a part of the strategy here It’s all of the assistant coaches who were on on contract with us so we’re talking about Orlando Antigua, Ron Coleman, Stephen Gentry and also our strength coach Adam Fletcher have all done a fantastic job, and so as we put this plan together here over the last month or so it was important to us that we address the employment contracts of each of those folks. As you said they’ve done a great job recruiting talent to this school but also developing the talent and honing the culture around our men’s basketball program in the University of Illinois They’ve really bought in to this institution and what we represent So as I said in a tweet today we’re really excited to be able to keep the band together and they’ve done a fantastic job Thanks.thanks Josh. Thasnk you. We’re going to answer these three at the same time here about hockey. Alright looks like we’ve got a couple questions coming up here about hockey I’ll start with Cathy Or John maybe it’s John. I’m here Josh and thanks for addressing hockey already and what my question was going to be was if a marathon is a 26.2 mile race at what mile marker would you say we are for the start of a hockey program? That’s it that’s a creative way of asking. I’ve never run a marathon so I don’t know that I have a lot of first-hand experience I can use a football field that might be a very good thing that I’m more familiar with I would say that you know we’re in the red zone for sure I think that we’re in the red zone we’re getting closer to the goal line I think every day we gain a couple inches maybe even a yard on a good day. So I wouldn’t put a specific number on it whether it’s the 15 the 10 to the 5 but I will tell you that I think we’re in the red zone and we’re getting closer every day That’s great I think the University community is excited about it the champaign-urbana community is excited about it central Illinois is excited about it so thanks much. Thank you John and I agree it’s really been impressive to me as I’ve traveled around the state and talk to different people there clearly is excitement around the prospect of bringing Division one hockey to Champaign, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to make it happen and hope they have good news in the not-too-distant future Alright looks like we’re looking at Tanner. Yeah hey Mr. Whitman how you doing? Good how are you? Not too bad glad I was able to catch you

here this evening. I wanted to ask you about on what you see for the future of the baseball program and I wanted to see if you kind of maybe comment more about the possible renovation of the stadium or a completely construction of the new stadium and also the baseball facilities? I’ll just go ahead and listen for my answer thank you so much sir. Thank you baseball we’re incredibly excited about what has happened with baseball in the direction that our baseball program is headed. Dan Hartleb our head baseball coaches has provided exceptional leadership now for many many years. And as everybody knows we were back in the NCAA tournament last year we’re one of the top seeds in the Big Ten tournament as well and so we have a few different plans related to baseball facilities. Ongoing is the development of the design for the new Atkins baseball training center it will be a indoor training facility exclusively for use by our baseball program that will really be unrivaled certainly within our conference and there will be few facilities like it anywhere in the country. It’ll be large enough to house an entire infield under under a roof to allow our guys more immediate access to all conditions training opportunities It will be connected to our current Clubhouse just adjacent to our field. In terms of the stadium and we don’t have plans to do a full-scale build or renovation. Those those plans would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 million dollars But we would like to come in and make some incremental improvements certainly we’re mindful of of the of the bowl itself and would like to try and do some chair backs. We’d like to do some things in terms of providing more sense of arrival and presence around baseball So I don’t see in the near term a new stadium per se but as we get the indoor facility finished that’ll be our immediate focus and then we’ll turn some attention and see if we can make some some incremental improvements to the a field as well All right thank you so much, thank you Julie. Hi yeah I just had a quick question I you know have another concern I’ve had a career in college health now for over 20 years and I have taken care of a large number of college athletes and certainly many many of those had head trauma. And I don’t think that you can be engaged in any discussion about this without looking at the hard reality of the research on concussion and the long-term sequelae associated with those at injuries, so I’m wondering you know if you can speak to that and what the university is doing to ensure the safety of these young athletes in light of this controversy? Absolutely I think that without question the health and wellness of our student-athletes is and always will be our first and foremost priority As you alluded to there’s certainly a new understanding of of head health if you will and making sure that we’re doing everything we can a to prevent head injury and be when head injuries do occur that we are treating it appropriately and making needed precautions – before we return athletes to play. And so in all those respects I think the Big Ten has has really been on the front end. We’ve started to put for example third-party observers into the press box at all football games So they’re watching the action with the sole purpose of identifying potential head injuries, and if an athlete isn’t taking him or herself out of a game making sure that that somebody on the field is aware and is removing that individual from competition for analysis We have a very strict protocol around head injuries in particular concussion that we follow diligently with with all of our student-athletes. And then we’re also engaged with some some different research projects here at our university to try and better understand head injury and what are what what’s causing some of the trauma and how we can try and mitigate it. I think in particular in the sport of football we’re very supportive of many of the recent rule changes that have been put in place to try and minimize the rate of head injury. Then we’re committed to making sure that our student-athletes also have the best and most updated equipment to try and minimize risk of injury as well

So it certainly is a a big topic of discussion in a major focus of not only our athletic program but I would say all of our peer athletic programs as well Thank you. Thank you for the call Looks like maybe we’ve got Brian next Yeah it’s Brian here Josh thanks a lot for doing this I appreciate it very much I had a question about football bowl games both from a practical and a philosophical point of view. And what I’m talking about is that and this probably shows my age a little bit but if a team is six and six for example I’m trying to see where the the benefit is to to tell young people you’re six and six and we’re going bowling. It’s hard for me to work up the enthusiasm about that part. And I also wonder from a practical point of view speaking of the injuries and so forth, if if you have a team that happens to be even or have a losing record what the value really is if going to a bowl? And I look at the Ireland thing completely different from going to the lugnut bowl or the air compressor bowl because I think it’s great to get out there and advertise the University and put on a good exhibition. But I if the bowls bring money into the school well that’s I understand that and maybe that’s the entire answer but outside of the money I’m kind of curious as to about getting excited about bowls that only exist for one year or that have absolutely no meaning at all Well I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder and certainly everything is relative and so I think it’s a fair question, but I would say that at different stages in in different programs progress different kinds of bowl games have different meanings. And so as an example I think our program is a great example where we hadn’t had a postseason opportunity in a number of years. For us to access the postseason to be in a bowl game was a really big deal for the young men involved in our program and I think to a person they would all say that. Especially after having gone it My question is if you keep adding bowl games to the to the universe of bowl games then eventually you’re going to get to go to bowl game regardless of how you play right Yeah I agree with you and but I don’t think it’ll be interesting to see if the bowl game environment continues to grow Or if we see some retraction I think that you know the the bowl games and to some extent are being driven largely by the television partners. Because many of the games to your point don’t draw huge crowds, but they do provide I think really interesting experiences for our student-athletes a lot of whom have not travelled extensively. And so for the chance for them to go to a new community to experience new things I think is very meaningful for them. And it certainly does give opportunities for extended practice. It’s a great chance for young players to develop during an additional 15 or so practices leading up to the game. So there are a lot of built-in advantages I think things that people can enjoy about the bowl environment But I do agree that at some point it’s it gets watered down to a point where it may not be as impactful, but I hope at some point in the not-too-distant future our program isn’t excited about going to a bowl game at 6 and 6. But I will say that this year and in as we continue to build Illinois football the chance to get into the postseason was a big deal and something we were happy to celebrate Something that our young men will remember for the rest of their lives So I’m a proponent of the bowl system and I certainly would never sit here and say that it’s perfect but I think it has a lot of advantages and a lot of benefits for not only our student-athletes but our fans as well Well I appreciate your insight thanks a lot Josh. thank you We have an online question here about it’s like we’ve got an online question here this is from Courtney yeah and the question is how do you see the future of women’s sports at the University and growing women’s sports in general our women’s teams are some of our best each year? I think it’s a great question really proud of our women’s sports teams as I mentioned we have 11 women’s sports programs here at the University of Illinois. Roughly half of our student

athletes are female and it’s been exciting to watch them continue to grow and develop. Just a couple quick examples really thrilled with the progress of our volleyball program they were in the NCAA Final Four just two years ago the national semifinals up in Minneapolis and back in the NCAA tournament again this year. I think it’s been really exciting for me to see a couple programs men’s I’m sorry women’s golf and women’s tennis have traditionally lagged a little bit behind their men’s counterparts in terms of performance In these last couple years we’ve started to see those programs start to close the gap which has been really great watching them. Women’s golf is a wonderful example they finished ninth in the country last year the highest finished in program history and actually in front of our men’s program which was was fantastic So it’s been wonderful to see I think a new collection of women’s coaches people who are growing up thinking about coaching women. We’ve got a tremendous group of professionals here working with our women’s teams. I think you’ve seen new investment across the board especially here in the Big Ten and some of the other major conferences into women’s sports. As some of the the dollars have gotten bigger through the conference distributions and the ticket sales were able to redistribute some of that money out to the benefit of all of our sports programs and in particular our women’s teams. We have actually an entire fund here within athletics that we forego as a gender equity account. So we have money set aside to provide additional benefit to our women’s teams as we’ve worked through the year So I I think that Illinois has a tremendous future in women’s sports really proud of the past that we’ve had but we’ll continue to invest and continue to support our our female student-athletes and look forward to a very bright future from them Okay it looks like we’ve got a question here on the phone from from Glenn, Glenn are you there? I’m here thanks for taking my call Josh and thanks for hosting this event it’s been pretty exciting to hear the insights directly from you. The question I had had to do with the new Smith Football Center I know it’s still relatively new but can you talk to the impact that the new center’s had on the the current players and the staff and then maybe some of the recruits that they come in and then I don’t know if you offer this maybe you do but do you see a time when you might be able to offer tours of the football Center for the alumni and fans? Yeah thanks for the question I think that to your first question which I think dealt with the current team. I really to be honest underestimated the immediate impact that that building would have on our on our student-athletes and on our staff. It was one of the most inspiring days that I’ve ever had as a professional to watch them come into the building on the very first day and to see how immediate it how immediately it changed their demeanor. They walked around with their head up their chest out there was just real pride in them that they didn’t have the day before. And so it was almost like the university to reached out with a proverbial shoulder and put their hand around the shoulder and said look you matter to us we’re excited about your progress we’re committed to your development and that that carried through. I think throughout the rest of the season there just was a different feel around the program and I think that carries over to the to the coaches as well. They want to be at a place that’s committed to their success they want to be somewhere that that understands what’s necessary to to succeed at the highest level and I think by putting that building together and getting it done in the time frame that we did if we demonstrated that commitment and that’s meant a lot to them. On the recruiting side there’s no question that it’s had immediate impact it’s just it’s a beautiful space. I don’t think that and I’ve said this in different settings I don’t think that a recruits going to sit down and and go room by room and say okay you know Illinois’s weight room is is great but Purdue’s is a little better, but Illinois’s locker room is better than Purdue’s. I don’t think they’re going to space by space but I do think that they’re asking sort of the general question okay do they have a great facility or do they not? Now we very clearly do and so we’re able to proceed through their evaluation to the next phase of them as they take a look at different schools. And so it’s been a tremendous success I think it as we have with some of the gifts we’ve received I think the Smith Center recalibrated people’s expectations

around our facilities. That now is the standard that we are striving to meet in all these different projects that I mentioned during my opening comments and that’s had a very positive impact. Not just on our football student-athletes but really on our entire athletic program and everybody who touches it The last question I think dealt with public tours. I do think that as we get settled in the building and we get a little more comfortable with what’s happening in it. It’s a little complicated because it is a working building and for those of you who follow football closely you know that there aren’t a lot of off hours but to the extent we can find some down time I think there would be some opportunities to take some groups through there. We certainly are doing that on a more regular basis now with with different groups of donors or alumni, but we may try and broaden that out maybe as we get into the end of the summer months. Thank you. I’ve got a poll question here so, if you wouldn’t mind as you’re listening in here the poll question is this would you be interested in participating in future town halls to learn more about the University of Illinois? Would you be interested in learning and doing more of these future town halls to learn more about the University and if you could respond by pressing one for yes or two for no that would be great information for us to collect. Take a minute like oh please press one for yes two for no Looking here for the next question gang we’ll go to Joe All right Joe I think has a question Joe are you there? I am hey Josh thanks for taking my call, Yeah my question was around actually and I know it has a stigma just because of some of our recent games of maybe not the greatest thing in the world but playing in Chicago again for both basketball and baseball. Not necessarily giving away home games but finding opportunities work makes sense for the university to get back up here on maybe I a bigger scale level in a good competitive game I’m wondering if that’s in the future something that’s better are still looking into? Sure yeah thanks for the question I think absolutely you know we’ll be back in Chicago at some point. I’m not going to commit to a year or a date Chicago is obviously in a very important market for us we’ve got a lot of connections in the city a lot of reasons that our basketball team was to be visible in that city. Not the least of which is recruiting and the opportunity for our players many of them to play in front of their hometown fans. So I I have every expectation we will be back in Chicago I just don’t know exactly win but I think it’ll be in the nut not too distant future for sure Thank you All right looks like Jerry with the question. Hi Josh this is Jerry down in Tucson and we don’t get a whole lot of Illinois information down here My question had to do with last year’s football team seemed to have a lot of graduate students and a lot of transfers. Is coach Lovie still working that market? Well thanks for the call and I hope I hope your weather and Tucson is nice I usually get out there at some point this time of year but I haven’t made it quite yet this spring. But on the transfer question yeah I think that that’s not going away anytime soon certainly for all of college football I think that the lovey and his staff have identified that as a great opportunity and a competitive advantage for us to try and access the graduate transfer market. As you may know there’s some some discussion happening out there right now around undergraduate transfers that would provide some flexibility to bring student athletes in from other schools during their undergraduate experience as well. And so we’ve held back a handful scholarships in will I think take a look at who’s available not just this time of year but also once Spring football’s over inevitably a number of people put themselves into the portal. I think there will be some nice opportunities again and as you said it was a great chance for us last year to get some very talented players on the roster, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to have similar results in the transfer market this year Okay looking forward to another ball game. Thank you we are too

I’ve got an online question here where is it? All right so this is a question from Mason. What is the process of looking for a head coach in particular after the hopes of adding a hockey team? So process for looking for a head coach that you know it varies a little bit depending on the sport depending on the circumstance. If a coach is left of their own volition you think about a Kevin Hanley for example who course left to take the position at Stanford. Now that’s one circumstance versus a situation where perhaps the change is coming from from from my office. So you need to get a good sense of what the team needs it at any given moment. I think that does change on depending on time and recent results in the culture that exists within that team You know we’ll start to identify candidates often before we’ve even made a change. I think it’s I’m a big believer that you want to have some idea of what’s around the corner and once you step off that cliff so to speak there’s no there’s no turning back. And so we try and have a good sense of who some viable candidates might be. What their I think it’s important too and I talked with other aspiring athletic directors about this that you’ve got to be really honest with yourself about the quality of your job I think sometimes you can put yourself into a difficult spot if you’re trying to make your job out to be something that it’s not and you’ve got to be very candid about what some of the challenges might be what some of the limitations may be and what you’re willing to do as an athletic program to make that position more attractive and what kinds of resources are you willing to commit in terms of salary staffing recruitment facilities. Because there’s always an opportunity to make things better and you need to work through that analysis on the front end to know what kind of a package you’re putting together to try and move somebody Because ultimately most of the time we’re going to be trying to unseat someone from some other place and bring them to our place. So you need to know what the tools are at your disposal to try and make that happen Then as you get into it I’m a big believer that you want to move fast, confidentially and smart Basically that means we’re not going to sacrifice speed for quality. We’re not going to go so fast that we may end up with what someone we don’t ultimately want. But I also know that in today’s world it’s hard to keep information quiet and the longer things are left open the more bad information gets inserted into the process and that just creates unnecessary complication So we’re going to move quickly we’re going to move confidentially. We’ve been really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to get our two high-profile searches done in a short period of time without any real leaks I think we’d take these same principles and apply them to hockey Certainly it’s a great opportunity here as we talked about the the talent that exists within this state. The chance to be the first head coach in a programs history is pretty spectacular. So it would be it certainly would be an exciting undertaking and one that we hope are in a position to tackle here in the in the not-too-distant future Alright we’ve got a question from Ken Ken are you there? Yeah I’m just mainly would it thank you and encourage you on and for the programs in the way they’ve increased. I’m down in South Florida now was a lifetime Illinois-er. It’s just fun to get out and put on the Illini gear and give us something to cheer about and thankful for the coaches and the work they put in. Not this past Christmas but the year before when Kofi was still a senior I seen Underwood down there at the City of Palms tournament that they have for basketball when he was still getting recruited. So just getting out there and putting in the work was nice to see him down there and then like I said just getting out with other groups from Illinois. Every time we go out with me and my wife and we see people from all over the state you know down in South Florida that’s retired I’m still working up this way but anyway I just appreciate the program glad that strides they made Almost went out to California to see the bowl game like you said the extra practices they get to put in and exposure of just getting on TV and people get to see people out there. I think that’s all exciting and it’s and it’s in the right direction so you just wanted to congratulate you on that I appreciate the comment very much It’s been pretty rewarding for all of us involved in the program. We’ve got as I mentioned 300 staff here who were doing unbelievable work. Who’ve been working tirelessly the last four years

to start making some of this progress I can’t say enough good things about the coaches our staff and certainly our student-athletes it’s not always been easy but everybody stayed the course and believed in the direction we were headed And so many of you out there have done the same thing and I really can’t underscore that enough what a difference it’s made to be able to walk in to our facilities and to see you out in your orange and blue. To able to travel around the country and put out the flag and people show up. It’s really been humbling to see the support that has continued to exist in the face of some adversity, and how meaningful it’s been for me now to be able to watch all of us start to enjoy some success it’s a this is what’s all about So I appreciate the comment I appreciate the support and certainly we have every intention of continuing on the path that we that were currently traveling on so thanks Call from Bruce? Hey Josh this is Bruce from up in the Chicago area. One of the things that surprised me a bit was the participation in I fund compared to other Big Ten schools. I can’t say enough how great a job you and your team does in promoting the I fund. I met you and your team up at the Big Ten tournament up in Chicago last year with my son who actually just decided to come to Illinois after considering Wisconsin Thinking Wisconsin would be a much better athletic experience for him as far as cheering for a team. But there was no better feeling when we were on the field together after beating Wisconsin and that he could not be happier to be at Illinois. So thank you for all you’re doing but my question I guess is what’s your strategy on getting higher participation especially in Chicago a with so much so many alumni Illinois and is there ways that we who I’m a I fund believer and supporter even though I’m not an alumni any way we can help promote to get better participation? Absolutely I appreciate the call and I’m so excited to hear about your son that’s that’s fantastic news. I think we’re going to have this on a podcast we may have to clip that part up and when I talk about the impact that that successful athletics can have on the university that’s a great example We talk all the time about as athletics improves we will see increased applications for admission we’ll see increased quality of the applicants We hear anecdotally often from people who want to go someplace that has a successful athletic program and who want that to be a part of their undergraduate experience. So thrilled to hear about your son’s choice and anytime we can beat Wisconsin on the field and certainly to steal some great aspiring students like your son away that’s that’s all the more better so Appreciate the comment I think on the question you’ve hit the nail on the head We have to do better we recognize that as we think about our potential we have hundreds of thousands of living alumni from this University and there there are very many schools that can brag on that point. We have scale in a way that few other schools do and so if we can just access some small percentage of those people and get them to engage actively with us through the I fund, it could be transformative. In terms of the dollars that we could generate then the resources we could provide to our student athletes. Just to give you an example, in Chicago right now we have depending on who you’re talking to and what the estimate is somewhere between one hundred and seventy five thousand and two hundred thousand alumni in the Chicagoland area. And right now we have less than seventeen hundred active i fund participants from Chicago Less than 1% of our Chicago alumni are active supporters of Illinois athletics through the I fund. And so if we can just move that needle a little bit if we can just double it to 2% if we can triple it to 3%. When you put it in those objective terms you start talking about 3% of hundred and seventy five thousand people you know we’re not talking about a huge difference or a huge increase that would necessitate just a tremendous impact on our program. And so how we’re going to do it we need to be more data-driven with with technology today We have an opportunity to learn more about the people who are supporting our program to help us better anticipate who are the folks that are more likely to invest And then we can be more targeted in some of our outreach That certainly has been a focus of ours here over the last year or so. I think that

word of mouth is critical. We really rely on people to talk about their involvement in the I fund and to encourage other people to get involved It’s a little challenging for us because we don’t have our own graduates. Other than our student athletes and I mentioned about a hundred a year we’re not like one of the colleges we don’t turn out thousands of graduates each year. And so it’s difficult to try and connect to people new people especially. We do rely heavily on word-of-mouth we look for referrals and we try and do as many large-scale events as we can to capture people’s imaginations and get them involved. The good news is I mentioned some of the numbers but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that our I fund is up almost 50 percent year over year from where we were a year ago. And so although the numbers aren’t where we want them to be and we have a long way to go, we are seeing some some meaningful progress I again tip my hat to the Howard Milton and our development team for the yeoman’s work they’re doing and trying to move the needle on that number and it seems like we’re starting to make some some good progress. So there’s no substitute for hard work certainly and but we are going to try and take a more creative approach and perhaps get a little more targeted in some of our outreach efforts using the benefit of some of these new technologies. I appreciate the question and again thrilled to have your son on campus. Happy to hear it and tremendous potentials. I will say this he doesn’t go anywhere without Illinois on his chest so great job on this Town Hall Thank You Josh Thank you. We’ve got an online question here going to read it this is from Robert. What is the effect of the state of Illinois budget issues year after year on the Illinois sports programs? I would say that it’s we’ve been fortunate because it’s relatively minimal. And the reason is something that I mentioned during my opening comments which is that the athletic program isn’t funded with state of Illinois dollars And so even as the state has worked through its own challenges on the fiscal front.The athletic program by virtue of generating our own revenue. Whether it’s through our membership in the Big Ten, ticket sales, private donations, licensing there are a lot of different things that that generate revenue to support the athletic program. We’ve been somewhat buffered from some of the challenges that the state has faced. So in that respect we’ve been fairly fortunate and able to work through it. I would say that’s not true necessarily for for some of our peer institutions across the state. Not every program is in a position to generate revenue the way that ours does. Whether you’re at a an FCS program and division 2 Division 3 program certainly but. We’re in a strong position because of our membership in the Big Ten and because of our presence as a Football Bowl Subdivision member of the NCAA to generate our own or own revenues, and that gives us some security against some of the state’s ups and downs Alright looks like we’re getting close to wrapping up here we’re not quite finished but if you’re waiting in line to ask your question please stay on the line. You’ll be able to leave a message with your question or a comment and we’ll kind of head down the homestretch here All right Greg. Yes hello are you sorry hello Greg my question? Yeah I was wondering because you’ve had a lot of decisions to make, what has been your hardest decision as being the athletic director? Wow that’s uh that’s that’s a big question. You know I will tell you that a lot of a lot of our hardest decisions are things that maybe happen behind the scenes you know things that we’re not at liberty to talk about. But there are a lot of pretty discrete things that happen that I’m proud of the way we’ve handled. But in terms of public decisions I think that certainly anytime that you replace a coaching staff those that those are very important far-reaching decisions I was just one of the things I really enjoy about this job is I get a chance to talk to a lot of students and I had a couple different calls today with students from different schools actually who have an interest in getting into college athletics. They asked a similar question and I I tried to provide some context to these coaching decisions. It’s not just about what’s in the best interest of the athletic program. You can’t help but

think about the implications of these decisions for the people involved Whether you’re talking about the head coach the assistant coaches the support staff all their families. If you’re going to make a change in football as an example football now has a staff of nearly 50 people and so if you’re going to change out 50 folks again their spouses their kids. You know that single decision has direct impact on literally hundreds of people, and that’s never something that you want to take lightly and it’s not a responsibility that has ever been lost on me. And so anytime you see us making changes on the coaching front whether it’s in a sport like football with with a huge staff or in something much smaller. The personal part of that is never far from my mind and those are those are very hard decisions to make Looks like we’ve got about about three minutes left. Maybe we’ll to try and do maybe two more questions here. I’ve got a question from Jim. Yes how are you? Good sir how are you? Very good and thank you for doing this this is great Question about undergraduate transfer rule. I’m a little concerned I think it’s great for the athlete. How’s this going to be regulated I mean our teams going to different schools going to try to, there’s no tampering allowed I’m sure but what’s the the way that that’s going to be defended you know in terms of a student athlete being influenced to transfer? What are the regulations going to be on the schools? Yeah it’s a great question and one that’s I would say a developing answer. Certainly there’s an understanding that in this new environment it does increase opportunities for poaching I think is the term that has been commonly used. What does that mean in terms of roster stability how can you build a team if you having to recruit your players every year? Those are all I think very real concerns and questions that we need to answer. I think that you answered it a little bit yourself and that we will have to develop some regulatory environment around it. I think that one of the things that’s been talking about is are there some deadlines some dates that are set where we can at least say okay bye. If your team is constituted in a certain way on date X then you can have some assurance that that’s the way the team’s going to look when you when you start the season So you create some boundaries around when these decisions are being made I think certainly another important part is making sure that we’re doing a good job of educating the student-athletes about what their decisions to transfer could mean for them. What the opportunity might look like on the other side of the door and what the implications of transferring might be for their eligibility for their timeline to graduation for some of their their financial situations depending on what their scholarship might look like So it’s very much a work in progress, but there are a lot of related issues to the transfer question that are going to require a great deal of time and thought from a number of different people involved in the process. All right well thank you and good luck Thank you all right I think maybe the grand finale here let’s see what we got how about John Looks like maybe John made with a question about the marching Illini we’re going to see if we can cue that one up here Hello Josh. John are you there? Yeah hi Josh, how are you? I’m fine thank you very much This is a I think this is a wonderful way to get word out about Illinois and information. I’m down in Orlando Florida but I was fortunate enough when I was in school I grew up in Champaign-Urbana. My dad was a professor at Illinois and I was lucky enough to be the drum major of the marching Illini for three years when I was in school. I just wanted to kind of get your take on I know at different times there’s some stuff about you know the lovie and and the coaches uh showing their appreciation for the band. I just think it did they still fall under the Athletic Association umbrella? They don’t. They actually are part of the actually part of the School of Fine Arts but we have a very is you would imagine a very close relationship

with the marching Illini, and we provide meaningful financial support to their operation. In fact I think at this point we we fund over 50% of their overall operating costs. We support them through some of our partnerships with Nike. We provide resources for uniform replacement for equipment replacement We provide some support for staff salaries related to the marching Illini. We fund a lot of their travel expenses and like when we went on the bowl game for example. That was a significant outlay on our behalf I think that there’s there’s just a great relationship between us Barry Houser is a tremendous tremendous friend and partner the athletic program. And so we’re grateful, one of my favorite days every year very always invites me to come visit with the marching Illini during one of their early days of training camp, and I’ve always looked forward to that. It’s just an opportunity for me to say thanks to them. I’m struck by some of the parallels between their training and their commitment to what has put forward every day by our student athletes. And so you know we’re just. It was it was great for me one of my favorite stories about the band was to see two it’s two or three years ago we played at Ohio State and the game didn’t go very well and it was a parental downpour. I’ve been a lot of football games this was the hardest rain I’ve ever seen in a football game ever The band’s had made the trip and stood out in that rainstorm for three quarters of that football game So it was really cool for me this year when we had the great comeback against Michigan State, the band made the trip to that game as well. And they weren’t able to sit in the stands and so Michigan State asked them to stand on the sidelines and if they hadn’t been standing because they wouldn’t been able to be on the field to be a part of postgame celebration which was just one of the most memorable events in my life, And so it was it was really cool to be able to share that moment with them knowing that they had been there with us through thick and thin Literally blue skies in torrential rain, and it’s just it’s been a great partnership and we’re very very gracious and grateful to them for for everything that they’ve that they’ve meant to the program and continue to mean the program Well I was in the Gary Smith era who started 76 who I thought just brought phenomenal changes to the program including the Illinois was the first school in the Big Ten to have a female drum major in 1977. And I was when he retired I thought nobody could take his place, but Barry Hauser has just been an amazing addition to Illinois Thank goodness that we saved him from leaving for Ohio State and I just want to say that anything you can do to help that program I think is just money in the bank for you. Well I appreciate I don’t know if you saw but this may count that you know a couple years ago I ran in the sousaphone 5k with a tuba around my shoulder for three point whatever miles. And I’ve still got the bruises on my shoulder and my pelvis to prove it. It was uh it was I just I really loved the band and they’ve been great partners and it’s been fun for us to build a relationship. So I appreciate the comments. My pleasure thank you Josh and I look forward to the next call Thank you, I think that’s that’s about all the time we’ve got for tonight I just want to thank everybody for for participating. I want to encourage you if you haven’t already to join the fight and there’s lots of opportunities we need you to buy some tickets to buy your gear be a be a part of this program engage with your University in some way Pick up the phone and join the i fund There’s a lot of different ways to get out and support our student athletes. And again it’s about what success in athletics can mean for the overall institution here at the University of Illinois. Appreciate everybody being a part of this and really and forward to the bright future that the head so thanks for spending some time with us and look forward to seeing you at one of our games coming up Let’s have a great finish to the to this winter and a great spring and go Illini thanks everybody take care