ATHENS, Ohio -- Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis officially introduced Julie Cromer as the university's next Director of Athletics on Friday (Aug. 16) in a press conference at the Perry & Sandy Sook Academic Center. Below is a transcription of the press conference.
OHIO UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT M. DUANE NELLIS
"Thank you everyone, and good morning. It truly is a pleasure to welcome all of you on this beautiful Friday morning in Southeastern Ohio and the campus of Ohio University, right before we welcome back thousands of students to our campus for fall semester. Some of them are already starting to make their way back. We have students returning for practice with their athletics teams and the Marching 110 to support our welcome week celebration or just getting settled into the community as we transition to fall semester. In fact, you may have noticed just out here our Bobcat football team, which I'm proud to say has been picked by the national media in a preseason poll to win the MAC this year. You see them out here practicing. It's also awesome to have some of our talented Bobcat student-athletes here this morning. We thank you for being here, and we're proud of their efforts on and off the field.
It's an exciting time for all of us here at Ohio University, and even more so today as we gather to celebrate the newest addition to the Bobcat family, our new Director of Athletics, Julie Cromer. Julie joins us from the University of Arkansas, where she served most recently as senior deputy athletic director, associate vice chancellor and senior women administrator for Razorback athletics. In addition to her executive role at Arkansas, Julie is a respected leader within college athletics nationally. She currently serves on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and is a member of the board of directors related to women leaders in college sports. Julie has a remarkable professional track record, and she impressed the search committee in her keen understanding and focus for ways in which athletics can serve as the front porch of our university. Over the span of her career with the Razorbacks, Julie oversaw daily operations of 19 varsity sports, led strategic planning efforts, assisted with capital fundraising campaigns and has served as a liaison with campus governance groups for the Southeastern Conference. Prior to that, she was the executive associate athletics director at Indiana University, where she was one of the first women in the Big Ten to oversee all elements of a collegiate football program. Julie also spent 10 years of her career at the NCAA national office, including academic and membership affairs, working to advance the NCAA academic reform and other policy initiatives. Given her extensive experience across the athletics landscape, I truly believe Julie is the right leader to help build on the last decade of success at Ohio University. It's my hope that under her leadership, we will see even more wins on the field and the courts as well as in the classroom. We will build a culture of collaboration that ensures our student-athletes continue to meet their greatest potential. In addition, I'm proud to share that Julie is the first woman to serve in the permanent role as the director of athletics at Ohio University. I would like to take a moment to thank Vice President of University Advancement and President and CEO of the University Foundation Nico Karagosian and Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones for their leadership and sharing in an expedited search with an incredible outcome. Thank you, Nico and Jenny. They led a great committee that included our Ohio University Board of Trustees Chair Dave Scholl, our Foundation Board of Trustees chair Perry Sook. That also included Chuck Williams, who is here today I believe. Chuck is on the Ohio Bobcat advisory board. And representatives from across campus, including our two faculty athletic reps ,as well as alumni and athletic representatives including Coach (Frank) Solich, Coach (Ali) Johnstone, Senior Associate AD Randee Duffy and student-athlete Melissa Koziol. Thank you each for representing Bobcat Athletics in the search. I also want to express my deepest gratitude to Deputy Athletic Director Amy Dean for her leadership as Interim Director of Athletics over the past several weeks. I greatly appreciate her partnership and guidance through this transition. She's been part of our Bobcat family for many years, and we appreciate all that you've done. Finally, I'm delighted to have Julie and her husband, Will Peoples, join us today here in Athens so we properly welcome them to the Bobcat family. Julie, thank you for being here today and for joining my leadership team and the Ohio University community. We're so glad to have someone with your talent level and expertise to lead us to that next level of excellence. I want to invite Julie to the podium to share her remarks, following which she will be available for questions from our friends in the press who joined us today. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our newest Athletic Director, Julie Cromer, to the Bobcat family."
OHIO UNIVERSITY DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS JULIE CROMER
"Good morning everyone. Thank you, President Nellis. I'm honored to be here today as Athletic Director of Ohio University. It is truly a privilege to join the Bobcat family. I do want to express my sincere appreciation to President Nellis for his faith and confidence in me to lead this program and for the opportunity to serve this distinguished university in this role. I also want to express my sincere thanks to the search committee led by Nico Karagosian and Jenny Hall-Jones for their time and energy given to this process. The search committee's passion and commitment to Bobcat Athletics was absolutely contagious. Talking with all of them offered me a glimpse into the culture and community of Ohio University and confirmed that this is truly a very special place. I also wanted to extend my personal gratitude to Amy Dean for her service as Interim Athletic Director again. As you know, this is Amy's third time serving in the role, and her passion for the university is unmatched. On behalf of the entire department, thank you for your leadership and commitment to Bobcat Athletics, and I look forward to working with you.
As you heard earlier from President Nellis, I have had the opportunity to work with some great leaders in the industry and some extraordinary environments. Fred Glass at Indiana University was instrumental in dragging me out of the NCAA National Office and getting me back to campus where I belong. He emphasized the integration of athletics into the broader campus and university community, and that is absolutely a value I will bring to Ohio University. Jeff Long was the gentleman who hired me at the University of Arkansas. Jeff has a relentless pursuit of excellence across all aspects of the department. It begins with teams on the field, but it carries all the way through to the units and those that support our student-athletes. With him, I learned the importance of that pursuit of excellence beginning at the top. And most recently, Hunter Yurachek, who is our Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics at the University of Arkansas, has demonstrated how important it is to connect with our community and to have the ability to quickly understand and embody the culture of a university and the state it serves. I want you to know that I will follow his example in the role as your new Athletic Director. I also appreciate the mentorship of Joe Castiglione, who is the Athletics Director at the University Oklahoma, or as I like to say to him now, the other OU. Joe has shared his wisdom and invaluable perspective over the years, and I appreciate him very much. Finally, I would like to acknowledge and express my appreciation for support of the University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz, who is, by the way, an Ohio graduate. He entrusted me with the leadership of Razorback Athletics during a relatively brief, but unusually eventful, period years ago. That has also prepared me for this transition today. To my other colleagues back in Fayetteville, I simply want to say thank you for the opportunity to serve our student-athletes, our coaches and staff, and for what and incredible experience that it has been for us to be a part of Razorback Nation. Speaking of us, finally, as we join Ohio University today, I just want to thank my husband, Will, for his support and enthusiasm as we begin the transition. As he said to me last night, this is our new family, and we are both very excited to join you hear in Athens.
A little bit about me. I am here today because I believe in the transformative power of higher education and in the leadership lessons provided through sport. I also understand, that in our culture, sports are embedded in the connective tissue of our communities. There is absolutely no other enterprise like college sports, and I am blessed to be a part of it. It operates at a four-way intersection of the transformative power of higher education, the responsibility to make values-based decisions, the competitive opportunities of sport and the aspirational expectations of a passionate fan base, and the responsibility to our student-athletes, which drives us all. The opportunities and challenges presented at that intersection motivate me on a daily basis. I believe in integrity, in transparency and communication, in inclusive excellence and in shared governance, something that I learned a little bit about at the NCAA. As you come to know me, you will understand that I also prioritize engagement in our community, both locally and beyond, and the responsibility to serve as a source of pride and identity for our alumni and supporters through the success of our student-athletes.
We must live up to the outstanding reputation and proud traditions of Ohio University, and we must deliver a student-athlete experience that fosters individual growth and achievement. In order to do that we will, one, develop student-athletes as leaders. We will, two, emphasize resource generation to support our competitive pursuits. We will model transparency and integration with our campus, and we will engender pride in our alumni and throughout Bobcat Nation.
Some of you may want to know what drew me to this opportunity at Ohio University. It was the strong academic reputation of the university, the rich, inclusive campus history that goes back, literally, centuries, the opportunity to engage with campus partners, the potential to win MAC championships, the passion and support of an alumni and fan base that is proud and loud across the nation. But also, as I've advanced in the search process, it's the people. As I mentioned earlier, Will and I had the opportunity to meet several of our student-athletes, our staff, and coaches during the gathering last night, and we've been overwhelmed by their kindness, their passion, and their commitment to our student-athletes, their love for Ohio University, and for Bobcat Athletics.
I also met with several groups during my campus interview last week, and I was impressed with the talent of those that I had the opportunity to meet, and I am excited to join your team. I will tell you that I was most impacted by my meeting with our student-athletes. They love this university. They are proud to be Bobcats, they strive for excellence every day, and they want to be actively engaged with our athletics leadership, with our campus, and with our community. So, while there were many factors that drew me to Athens and Ohio University, let me say that meeting with you and talking with you last week was a particularly compelling component to that. Let me also say to you that as you come to know me, you will learn that I am a student-centered leader. That I am committed to your personal development, your intellectual growth as you pursue your degrees, and your athletic development as we pursue conference championships. As you know, your perspective is important, and your involvement in the search process is a signal of what is to come. We will engage you, so you better be ready.
I am so proud to join a department that has recently achieved an 88 percent student-athlete graduation success rate, with 12 teams scoring a perfect NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 1000, 300 students who have earned a GPA above 3.0 and a departmental cumulative GPA of 3.235, and several programs who have achieved postseason success on a national level, including football and women's basketball, most recently, and many other programs in a position to advance to conference and NCAA postseason events in the future. I look forward to leading a department committed to building on these accomplishments as we integrate with campus and inspire passion in our alumni and supporters. For perspective student-athletes and students across the state of Ohio and beyond, if you are looking for a place to pursue your intellectual curiosities, to maximize your talents, and to prepare you as a future leader in your life beyond college, I invite you to come join us here in Athens and become part of our family at Ohio University. Go Bobcats."
On what job number one is once she is back on campus at the end of the month:
"I think job number one is to look, learn and listen. When I have an opportunity to come back in a couple of weeks -- I think I'll start here for football gameday on August 31st -- I'll kick off a 100-day plan that will include an opportunity to meet with several constituents, of which, yes, will be the student-athletes. It will be an opportunity to meet and listen to folks and take a look around. This is my third visit to campus in the last couple of weeks. I've been able to see a little bit here and there, but I think it's important to get embedded into a place before you begin to make too many decisions and before you begin to set a course too permanently. I do think there is great potential here. You don't have to be here with boots on the ground in order to see and know that about Ohio University. As I mentioned, the academic reputation, a commitment to excellence across campus, and the opportunity to foster an inclusive environment, are all things that not only drew me to Ohio University, but also draw others and draw interests that we'll capitalize on."
On the challenges of working in a department the size of Ohio:
"Scale is different. I understand that. What's most important is the thing that is similar, which is the passionate energy of the staff who are here. I do I understand resources are different than some of the other places that I've seen along the way, but I think resources are a challenge everywhere you go. Everything is relative to where you are and who you are competing against. I like our position within the Mid-American Conference. I like the potential and opportunities to bring more resources to support the endeavors of our student-athletes. I think the opportunity to scale to this type of environment is coming at a perfect time for me in my career. Some of you may know, I spent a little bit of time at the very beginning of my career in what you may describe as less resourced Division I environments as well. In some ways for me, it's all coming back around a little bit more full circle."
On inheriting a solid group of coaches:
"It was a significant draw. I had experiences with coaching transitions. But, I look forward to the opportunity to put some of that off for some time. And I think others look forward to that, too. I think that the coaching facility here is a big draw and a big source of our energy, and a big source of our strength. When you take a look at the tenure of some of our coaches here and other places, but particularly here, I think that reflects their commitment and their success. Their ability to work in this environment with these resources is demonstrated by their success. It's been great to talk with them. They have been incredibly resourceful. At the same time, I think a burst of new energy is something that they are looking forward to and are welcoming as well."
On plans for fundraising:
"I've had a little bit of an opportunity to dig into it. Obviously, we've had contact through Nico's leadership of the search committee to talk about our connection with the University Foundation. It is part of the look, learn and listen tour, but I also think that we do enjoy significant support from out alumni and from our donors that we appreciate very much. I don't want to miss the opportunity to thank them for the commitment that they are already making. As you talk to individuals that love Bobcat Athletics, you also hear and understanding that support is needed, and we will need to continue to grow it. I do anticipate that being a part of a plan that we roll out later this fall. The details of which we will determine after we go through the look, learn and listen."
On scheduling philosophy:
"I do think the resources are at the highest level, and certainly other elements of the program are at those institutions, just like they are here. Resources are a comparison point, but the commitment to excellence, the emphasis of student-athlete development, the commitment to the intellectual growth of our student-athletes, is just as excellent here as it is at either of those two places or anywhere else. I know that wasn't your original question, but I do want to emphasize that.
Scheduling, for me, is a great opportunity to for us to step into our role as the front porch of the university. The amount of exposure we are able to bring to campus and beyond is incredible. I think it's one of the biggest assets we bring to the university as partners. When we are in position to be able to schedule in a way that we can take advantage of that, I think we will do so. Scheduling as an activity and a function is a partnership with your coaches, and you have to understand where your program is in its development and what types of opportunities are right and appropriate for our student-athletes at that time. I'm very sensitive and interested in that as well. We will take advantage, particularly with our teams that are on the peak of their competitive cycle and have an opportunity to perhaps get them on some bigger stages, if you will, that will give us an opportunity to elevate the visibility of our entire university."
On being the university's first full-time female athletics director:
"On a personal level, I am honored to support and be a role model for all student-athletes within our program and all students on campus. I do understand the significance of role models, though, and understand what it means to walk into a room and see someone who visually may reflect your experience or feel like may reflect your perspective. I think our household is an embodiment of that for a number of individuals. We step into that every day. Whether I am the athletic director at Ohio University or in any other role in life, that's been a responsibility. It's not necessarily new to walk in that responsibility. I do recognize the historical significance for us here at this university. I hope that gives us an opportunity to tell our story. This university has a rich culture of inclusion. It's one of the reasons Will and I were drawn to the community. I am not the first, first on this campus, and I am well aware of that. The other thing that I would like to say is that there are a lot of very talented women who have worked in college athletics for a very long time. The fact that I have the opportunity to stand here at the podium here today, is because of them. Many of them would have been terrific athletic directors, and they either had the opportunity or didn't or made other choices. I am not a unicorn. I am a member of an army, and we seek to lead all of college athletics for all of our student-athletes, not just our young women."