Retiring ISU president Al Bowman (Photo courtesy of ISU)
By Bryan Bloodworth
The person, who fills the void at Illinois State for retiring president Al Bowman, will no doubt need to possess many outstanding traits and qualifications.
They also will need to understand the importance of athletics to the university, accoring to Bowman during a one-on-one conversation in Lefty's Corner recently.
"I don’t think there is any question that this campus will want a president, who has a commitment to athletics and I say that with considerable authority," added Bowman. "In talking with Board of Trustee members, they understand athletics and believes athletics is an asset to the institution.
"If a presidential candidate was to express some reservations about what we’re trying to do with athletics at ISU, then I don’t think they’re going to be a good fit for this campus."
Bowman believes athletics allows Illinois State to provide students with the full collegiate experience and has been pleased with their support.
"In looking at student attendance at athletic events, I couldn’t be happier," Bowman continued. "I think we are going in the right direction. I know many schools around the country are concerned about declining student attendance, but I don’t think that’s the case here."
Bowman also has been pleased with the academic performance of ISU's student-athletes during his nine-year tenure.
"When we hired Coach (Brock) Spack there were some concerns about academic performance among some football players, but that has been turned around under his tenture," added Bowman. "You look at the number of our student-athletes with a B average and it's over half of all our teams. That’s a real testament to those kids and the teachers who motivate them to do that good work."
As with previous athletic directors, Bowman meets with Gary Friedman on a regular basis to stay abreast of developments in the department.
"My management style is that I don’t micro-manage," said Bowman. "But I do have lots of communication with my direct reports and that includes the athletic director. We have many conversations about what’s going on in athletics.
"I don’t make hiring decisions for athletics, but I like to have a role and be a part of it when we are hiring for our major sports. I really empower the athletic director and his staff to do their jobs."
And what does Bowman thinks makes a good athletic director?
"That job requires very, very high-level management skills," Bowman said. "They have to be outgoing and have the ability to reach out to the fan base. They have to be good oral communicators and help people understand what we are trying to do. They have to be good fund-raisers because that’s an important part of the job. But at the end of the day, identifying coaching talent and hiring coaches is really the core of the job.
"I think we are going in a good direction and as long as the teams remain competitive and show improvement I think they are doing what we’ve asked them to do."
Bowman added that ISU's membership in the Missouri Valley Conference is a good one.
"We’re happy with the Valley and we believe our membership in the Valley is the right one for us," said Bowman. "We’ve got natural competitors there and I like the strength of the conference. I really see us being a part of the Missouri Valley for a long, long time."
As his days wind down as president, Bowman reflects that there are a number of things he's enjoyed.
"But my involvement in athletics and getting to know the student-athletes has really been a highlight and the success we’ve had over the years has really enhanced the job."
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at email@example.com