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Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation

Northwestern University

Last Updated: 3/25/21

Job Description


Northwestern University is a private research university with primary campuses in Evanston and Chicago in Illinois, United States, as well as Doha, Qatar. Composed of twelve schools and colleges, Northwestern offers 124 undergraduate degrees and 145 graduate and professional degrees.
Northwestern is the country’s #9 National University, #3 Business School, #9 Law School, #7 Education School, and #18 Medical School according to U.S. News & World Report, and also features renowned performing and musical arts programs. Northwestern has over 8,000 undergraduate students and over 13,000 graduate students, around $886M in annual sponsored research awards, and an overall endowment of $12.2B. The university is a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Athletics and Recreation has over 220 full-time employees, supplemented with a large number of part-time and temporary staff, as well as student personnel. There currently are over 530 student-athletes representing 19 varsity sports. In addition, the Recreation unit offers club sports for over 1,200 students and offers gym memberships to faculty, staff, and the community. Over the last five years, Northwestern has invested more than $500 million in new and renovated facilities, supported by record fundraising success.
Academic and athletic excellence are core to Northwestern’s student-athlete experience. In 2019-2020, a school-record of 288 student-athletes earned academic All-Big Ten honors, the tenth straight year that more than 200 student-athletes earned such honors. The university also achieved the top overall Graduation Success Rate among FBS institutions for the third consecutive year with a score of 98%, including perfect scores for fourteen programs.
Recent on-field successes have included the football team clinching the Big Ten West Division title twice in the last three seasons; the women’s basketball winning the Big Ten Championship in 2020 for the first time in 30 years; the women’s lacrosse team advancing to the national semifinal in 2019 after winning seven NCAA championships since 2005; and softball advancing to the NCAA tournament six times in the past decade with a Super Regional appearance in 2019.
Please visit the Northwestern website at for more information.


The Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation (Athletics Director) is responsible for leading the Athletics and Recreation department and its student-athletes, head coaches, and administrative staff. The person will report to the President of the University and serves on the President’s senior staff. This position will work towards the academic and athletic success of all student-athletes, while maintaining and improving the university culture and the student-athlete experience. Additionally, the person will be responsible for promoting the recreation department and working to actively engage the student body and community in the campus environment.


Leadership and Community Engagement

  • Promotes university culture and mission throughout the athletic department and general campus.
  • Fosters and leads a culture of the utmost integrity.
  • Leads efforts to integrate athletics with the rest of the university.
  • Engages effectively with student-athletes, administrative staff, coaches, faculty members, the Board of Trustees, alumni, and the entire Northwestern community.
  • Participates at key events on behalf of university athletics and serve as a key public representative of Northwestern.
  • Serves as a thought leader at the university, Big Ten, and NCAA level.

Management of Athletics and Recreation
  • Responsible for the hiring and retention of executive staff, head coaches, and staff. Leads performance reviews for all members of the Athletics department.
  • Leads all major business aspects of the department including budget and finance, capital projects, marketing, sales, and operations.
  • Provides leadership for department fundraising, plans strategy for the solicitation of major gifts, and engages and interacts with alumni.
  • Ensures compliance with university, Big Ten, NCAA, and Title IX rules and regulations.
  • Oversees the day-to-day operations of the department including, but not limited to, game day operations, promotional/media efforts, and the scheduling for all sports.
  • Oversees the recreation department and promotes competition and recreational activities for approximately 8,000 students as well as faculty, staff, and community members.

Student-Athlete Success
  • Provides oversight to all 19 varsity sports within the athletic department, and is actively involved in the day-to-day leadership of the coaching staff and student-athletes.
  • Oversees student-athletes and their performance on and off the field. Continues a culture of academic excellence and coordinates with academic support staff to foster success and exceptional graduation rates.
  • Responsible for student-athlete services to ensure proper academic support, mental and physical care, facilities, and equipment.
  • Advocates for the physical, mental, social, and academic well-being of student-athletes.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Leads diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts for the department.
  • Demonstrates commitment to social justice principles and actions.

  • Bachelor’s degree required.
  • Relevant and transferrable experience at the Division I level.
  • Legal knowledge of university, Big Ten, and NCAA rules and policies.
  • Experience collaborating with key stakeholders, both internally and externally.
  • Understanding of media rights, sales, and marketing.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the academic requirements of the university and commitment to student success and welfare.
  • Demonstrated experience managing all sports within an athletic department.
  • Experience leading large teams and managing administrative staff.
  • Success in the hiring and retention of key staff.
  • Promoter of a positive culture and working environment for all coaches, staff, and student-athletes.
  • Experience with crisis management and leadership.
  • Ability to perform any physical requirements of the job.

  • Master’s degree or other post-graduate degree.
  • Relevant experience at a similar institution (private, highly selective university in a Power Five conference).
  • Familiarity with a competitive urban media market.

  • Unimpeachable integrity and moral standards.
  • Outstanding work ethic.
  • Exceptional interpersonal and relationship-building skills.
  • Excellent writing and communication skills.
  • Strong fundraising experience and financial prowess.
  • Robust public speaking experience.


Applications and nominations are now being accepted. For best consideration, please submit application materials as soon as possible. DHR International is assisting Northwestern University in this search. Initial screening of the applications and nominations will continue until an appointment is made. Individuals who wish to nominate a candidate should submit a brief letter of nomination including contact information for the nominee. Application materials should include a letter addressing how your experiences match the position requirements and a curriculum vitae or resume. Submission of documents as PDF attachments is strongly encouraged.
Inquiries, nominations, and application materials should be directed to DHR International via the email below:

Company Details

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois, United States