Illinois alumnus Josh Whitman was hired as the University’s 14th permanent director of athletics on February 17, 2016. Throughout Whitman’s tenure, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) has received 27 gifts of $1 million or more, including a $20 million donation from the H.D. Smith Foundation to name the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center, a $7 million gift for a new soccer and track and field stadium and facilities, and two $3 million in naming gifts for baseball and softball indoor training facilities.
Internally, Whitman reorganized the department’s leadership structure and created the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, which hosted DIA’s first Diversity Summit in the spring of 2018 and has played a prominent role in helping student-athletes and staff navigate social justice initiatives and issues.
At the time of his hiring in early 2016, Whitman, then 37 years old, was the youngest athletics director in the Autonomy 5. Prior to returning to Illinois, Whitman, spent nearly six years as an athletics director at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Whitman graduated from Illinois with Bronze Tablet honors in 2001 while earning a bachelor’s degree in finance. In 2008, he graduated summa cum laude from the Illinois College of Law before serving as a judicial law clerk for Judge Michael Kanne on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. From 2005 to 2008, he worked for DIA and former Illini athletics director Ron Guenther in various administrative capacities. On the gridiron for the Fighting Illini, Whitman was a four-year starting tight end from 1997-2000 and two-time First Team Academic All-American. He then spent parts of four seasons as a player in the National Football League, including stints with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.
Prior to embarking on his career in athletics administration, Whitman practiced law in Washington, D.C., with Covington & Burling LLP, a firm with a preeminent sports practice that represents, among other clients, the National Football League.
Whitman grew up in West Lafayette, Ind., and is married to Hope Whitman. They have two children: a daughter Tate, who is four, and a two-year-old son, Will. Whitman remains a licensed attorney and is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. In 2019, Whitman was selected to the national board of directors for the Sports Lawyers Association. Whitman’s leadership has earned national attention, highlighted in early 2018 when Sports Business Journal named him to its prestigious Forty Under 40 list. In July 2017, Whitman was selected Central Illinois Business Magazine’s Forty Under 40 Man of the Year.