by Ben Gross [Staff Writer]
Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither will the NIU athletic program under the direction of Jeff Compher, athletic director and associate vice president.
Instead of using swords and warriors to create his empire, however, Compher and his staff will utilize their newly created Northern Illinois University Intercollegiate Athletics Strategic Plan.
The strategic plan keeps the missions simple; “We develop champions in the classroom, in competition and in life.” It also provides a clear set of values for the department, RED (Represent NIU with pride, Expect success and Demand integrity).
While it’s easy to write this down, it will be harder to make sure it comes to fruition. But Compher is dedicated to making this mission statement a living promise.
“There are six different goal areas, and we have objectives to complete over the next three years,” the athletic director said. “Our goal was to make this a living document; not a dust collector on the shelf.”
The six goals NIU will work on over the next three years relate to developing a culture for student-athlete success, instilling a “compliance conscience” throughout the campus, developing and maintaining outstanding programs, producing an environment of gender equity, enhancing external resources and ensuring fiscal responsibility.
Students will not see all these goals in action but will see some changes made to the athletic program because of this document.
“For the average student, ultimately what we want it to do is have an impact on their experience with our athletic department,” Compher said.
One way the department aims to achieve this is by building a sense of community between the campus and students. Compher wants to eventually develop a high school-like atmosphere around athletics at NIU, where students and faculty feel connected to student-athletes.
To achieve this, the athletic director believes student-athletes need to mingle with other student organizations. Compher would also like student-athletes to become recognizable on campus as he feels many students do not know they have student-athletes in their classes.
Along with the six main goals, the strategic plan has 14 initiatives that will be completed this year. One of these initiatives is to improve the basketball game day experience for students and the community.
NIU made an effort to achieve this last season by offering tickets to the T.I. and Ludacris concert at the NIU men’s basketball game against Akron.
The Huskies had 1,881 fans at that game. The Akron game was the third most attended home conference game.
Students might also begin to recognize new construction in the upcoming year. While nothing is set in stone, one of the strategic plan’s goals is to, “Identify and secure sources of funding for current and future capital projects.” Under this goal, the department has listed a sub-goal stating: “Launch structured campaign for Indoor Practice Facility.”
The development of a indoor practice facility might still be distant, though, as the department is organizing the facility needs of its programs.
“We wanted to look at a facilities plan, like what makes sense,” Compher said. “We just wanted to kind of put that out there, that we need to set some priorities for facilities.”
While students won’t see it directly, the athletic department is also trying to find ways to be fiscally responsible.
Along with the rest of the university, the department is in a hiring freeze. Compher is also having his sports find ways to travel for less money and is looking to bring in more ticket sales by dropping the price of season tickets for football.
Coaches, student-athletes and members of the community responded well to the strategic plan, according to Compher. The athletic director discussed the plan with his coaches over a five-hour session one day in the Sky Room of the Holmes Student Center. He said everyone left the meeting feeling excited.
Carol Owens, NIU women’s basketball head coach, agreed with Compher’s assessment.
“RED: it’s pretty simple, it’s catchy, it’s part of who we are,” Owens said. “We wanted to come up with something that our athletic department would be known for. We wanted something that defined who we are.”