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Friedman Named Illinois State Director of Athletics
Illinois State University’s President Al Bowman announced the appointment of Gary Friedman as the Redbirds’ Director of Athletics Wednesday. Friedman, who previously served as the senior associate athletic director at Louisville, was chosen from approximately 45 applicants. He will officially begin the position on June 1.
Friedman will be Illinois State’s 10th Director of Athletics in the NCAA Division I era. He has more than 22 years of combined university and athletic administration at Louisville, Central Michigan, East Tennessee State and Illinois.
“Gary continued to impress me throughout the process with his development experience in regards to facility enhancement and his passion for student-athletes and their success,” Bowman said. “Illinois State University and its athletics department have made great strides over the last decade and we searched nationwide to find the individual with the ability to take the athletics program to new heights. Gary is that person.”
Friedman comes to Illinois State with a background in fundraising, sales and marketing, strategic planning, facility enhancement, sport and budgetary management and community and university relations as well as experience in transitioning conferences.
“I’ve been familiar with Illinois State and its rich tradition since I was a young boy growing up in the suburbs of Chicago and now to have the opportunity to join the Illinois State family and lead its athletics program, while working with such a wonderful president in Al Bowman is truly a dream a come true,” Friedman said. “I’m very thankful, honored and humbled and can’t wait to be on campus in a full-time capacity to get started.”
Friedman earned his master’s degree in athletic administration (1992) and his bachelor’s degree in marketing (1989) both at Illinois. He is the past president of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) and a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD).
At Louisville, Friedman was a member of the management team leading a $65 million per year intercollegiate athletics program, supporting 23 sports and more than 500 student-athletes. During the past two seasons at Louisville, 18-of-23 sports were nationally ranked and made post-season play, and the program received 38 Big East regular season and tournament championships after joining the conference in 2005. All 23 sports have received a new facility in the past 10 years.
With the Cardinals, Friedman directed external operations, which included marketing, promotions, development, major gifts and the annual fund, and led fundraising for the design and construction of several major facilities totaling more than $350 million. Friedman also led fundraising efforts that raised more than $41 million in athletic gifts during the 2009-10 year.
Prior to Louisville, Friedman served as the associate athletics director for external operations at Central Michigan from 1996 to 2001. At CMU, he led the fundraising and assisted in the planning and design for a $28 million expansion project, including football stadium expansion, indoor practice facility, academic center, indoor track stadium and weight training center. His efforts at Central Michigan also helped increase annual fund revenues in the department by 54 percent in three years, despite experiencing losing football and basketball seasons.
Friedman worked five years at East Tennessee State (1991-96), the first year as its director of marketing and promotions before advancing to assistant athletic director for external operations. There, he aided the Buccaneers in setting new revenue highs by creating new sponsorship and fundraising programs.
Born in Chicago, Friedman and his wife Ra’Tonya – who was crowned Mrs. Kentucky America in 2008 – have two sons, Noa’Sosa (3) and Nehemiah (1). He succeeds Sheahon Zenger, who left Illinois State to take the director of athletics position at Kansas in January.
What they are saying about Gary Friedman:
Tom Jurich, University of Louisville Vice-President of Athletics: “Gary is an energetic guy. He has great vision and has been a tremendous asset for me over the last nine years. He is someone who I could always rely on and trust, and I knew I was always getting his best effort. We have had a lot of success here and Gary was a big part of that. He has a wonderful young family and they will blend in nicely with the community. I know he is looking forward to getting closer to home, and I’m just as excited for him.”
Doug Collins, Head Coach of the Philadelphia 76ers and Illinois State University All-American: “I’m so excited that Illinois State University was able to find someone to continue the excellent job that Sheahon Zenger did while serving as the director of athletics. I have known Gary Friedman for over 20 years. He is very bright, passionate and brings a wealth of experience to ISU. The Redbird fans will be excited to know that Gary will work tirelessly to keep us in the elite of the Missouri Valley Conference. He has great leadership skills and brings a wealth of experience in fundraising. Once again Dr. Bowman has hit a home run.”
Herb Deromedi, Central Michigan University Director of Athletics Emeritus: “Illinois State is very fortunate to have Gary Friedman as its athletics director. With (Central Michigan) he had a great deal of responsibility, including marketing, development and also working with various coaches. Gary is energetic, very thorough, people friendly and you put all those things together and he is extremely confident. As I said before, I’m excited for Gary and excited for Illinois State University. I will be following the program with renewed interest.”
Julie Hermann, University of Louisville Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator: “I think Gary Friedman is an exceptional talent. He is a tremendous collaborator who will raise the game of every teammate in the athletic department.”
By Missouri Valley Conference Media Relations