Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker on Tuesday introduced Sean Frazier, a talented and proven leader whose emphasis on student-athlete academic and athletic success perfectly fits the philosophy Baker has laid out for NIU under his administration, as the Huskies’ new associate vice-president and director of Athletics. Baker called Frazier, “the best athletic director candidate in the country, and someone I am convinced will do great things with us.”
Frazier brings vast experience as a director of Athletics at three institutions and has spent the last six years in senior leadership roles at the University of Wisconsin, serving most recently as deputy director of Athletics for the Badgers’ 23-sport, $100 million program.
With expertise in fundraising, branding, program and student-athlete development, and a national reputation as a leader in diversity, Frazier takes over a Northern Illinois athletics program still riding a wave of momentum generated by the Huskie football team’s historic appearance in the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl. Five NIU teams advanced to the finals of the Mid-American Conference Championships in 2012-13 and Huskie teams have won five MAC titles over the last two years.
A former football student-athlete at the University of Alabama, Frazier has 22 years of overall experience as a director of athletics at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels, as an administrator at two Division I universities, as a coach and as a student-athlete.
Baker was enthusiastic about the qualities Frazier will bring to the position as he becomes the 11th permanent athletic director in Northern Illinois history and the first African-American to serve in the role at NIU.
“In Sean Frazier, we have found a personable, honest, passionate, confident, experienced administrator who is committed to NIU and to the success of our student-athletes,” Baker said. “He has built facilities, built programs and dealt with tough issues effectively as a director of athletics and as the deputy athletic director at an excellent program. He understands the changing NCAA environment, is a national leader in fostering diversity and brings an inspiring and engaging leadership style that will build bridges with the local community and with our many constituencies.”
Frazier believes he and Northern Illinois are a perfect match.
“The fit, for me, was perfect,” Frazier said. “When I look at Northern Illinois University and Huskie Athletics, I see a community that reflects who I am as an administrator. Entering the process, I saw a lot of similarities between what is needed to take that next step at NIU, and what I have been able to bring to some of the jobs I’ve held previously. At Wisconsin I gained the day-to-day, Division I experience, while my decision-making skills were honed there and as athletic director at three different institutions.
“I believe I can bring exactly what is needed to help take the program to the next level. There is excellence here and we need to capture it, capitalize on it and keep the momentum building.”
Baker said Frazier will bring the new president’s focus on enhancing student career success, providing ethically-inspired leadership and engaging with the local community, into every-day practice in the athletic department. Frazier will also provide his expertise on diversity issues to the greater university community.
“Since my arrival at NIU, we have made ethically-inspired leadership one of the guiding goals of our institution,” Baker said. “In looking at Sean’s background, it’s clear that he has faced challenging situations and has resolved them. He has a student affairs background and has been focused on student success his entire career, with particular interest in multicultural groups, which is important to us at the university level. In addition, he has a deliberate and intentional focus on building strong relationships with the community and knows how to allocate scarce resources.”
Over the last six years at Wisconsin, where he was promoted from associate athletic director to senior associate athletic director in 2009 to deputy director of athletics in 2011, Frazier’s duties grew to include managing all day-to-day internal and external operations for Badger Athletics and serving as UW’s “Chief of Staff”. He was the department’s liaison to university administrative units, the school’s multimedia right shoulder and to the Big Ten Conference, as well as the UW Police Department and Campus Recreation Board.
Frazier oversaw all fundraising and advancement activities at UW, including the annual fund, major gifts, suites and club seats, endowments, multimedia rights, ticket operations and alumni affairs. During his tenure at Wisconsin, he served as the administrator for three revenue-producing sports (football, men’s basketball and men’s ice hockey), providing direct support to the football program that won three consecutive Big Ten Conference Championships. He negotiated multiple contracts and managed personnel for a 326-person department.
Frazier played a lead role in raising $123 million for multiple capital projects at UW, including a $31 million hockey/swim facility, an $86 million student-athlete performance center and a $3.5 million softball indoor practice facility. One of his proudest accomplishments was establishing the Diversity Integration Group (DIG) which brought together all of the department’s diversity and inclusion efforts. He is currently completing a term as president of the Minority Opportunities Athletics Association (MOAA).
Prior to Wisconsin, Frazier served as Director of Athletics at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. for two years, was the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. from 2002-2005 and led the athletics and recreation department at Division III Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. from 1999-2002. His accomplishments in eight years as an athletic director ranged from negotiating television agreements, establishing departmental policies and procedures, revamping logos and branding, overseeing facility enhancements, increasing revenue streams by creating fundraising groups, adding sports programs and cultivating successful sports programs.
Frazier began his administrative career at the University of Maine as an assistant football coach in 1995, and was soon tabbed as the athletic department’s multicultural affairs liaison, where he created programs aimed at fostering diversity. He was named assistant to the athletic director in 1996 and became assistant athletic director in 1998. In that role, he provided administrative support to Maine’s 1999 National Championship men’s ice hockey team.
A Long Island, N.Y. native, he played four years of college football at the University of Alabama from 1987-91 and was a member of the 1989 SEC Championship team. He has written numerous papers, presented on topics of diversity, leadership and hiring at national meetings and served on NCAA committees. Frazier earned his bachelor’s degree in communication from Alabama, has a master’s degree in higher education/educational leadership from the University of Maine and is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from Wisconsin. He and his wife, Rosa, have three children, daughters Marina (11) and Marcella (4) and son Maximo (9).
“I believe my background make me uniquely qualified for this position, and my experience as a seasoned decision-maker will benefit NIU,” Frazier said. “I’m excited to work with President Baker and very thankful to him and to the search committee for their confidence in selecting me to lead Northern Illinois Athletics. My family and I are looking forward to joining the Huskie family.”
Baker also thanked the search committee for their efforts which culminated in Frazier’s introduction Tuesday.
“Bringing Sean to NIU is the result of a lot of hard work by a group of dedicated people from across the university,” he said. “We had a tremendous search committee, led by Faculty Athletics Representative Matt Streb, who put a lot of work into this search. We had great involvement from John Butler and Marc Strauss from our Board of Trustees and many others. I also want to thank Christian Spears for his dedicated and effective service in the interim athletic director role.”
Frazier, who succeeds Jeff Compher as NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics, will begin his duties at Northern Illinois in August.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT FRAZIER…
University of Wisconsin, Director of Athletics
“Northern Illinois hired an outstanding individual, a very competent administrator, someone that I have relied on heavily in the last several years and someone that I have a great deal of confidence in. He is a strong administrator in all areas; he is an outstanding family man and someone who will be heavily involved in the community.
“I think Sean is one of the top authorities in the country on diversity. Sean deals with individuals very well; he is a strong leader and is someone I have given a lot of responsibility to. He has become a close friend and he has done an outstanding job here.”
Northwestern University, Vice President for Athletics & Recreation
“Northern Illinois has made an absolutely sensational hire in naming Sean Frazier its next Athletic Director. I have had the privilege to work alongside Sean in the Big Ten for the past five-and-a-half years. Sean served in a leadership position at Wisconsin, so he would be in all of our Athletic Directors meetings and I have been incredibly impressed with his leadership, his knowledge and his passion for the student-athlete experience.
“As a place that I love, Northern Illinois University, I couldn’t be happier, or more proud, of the selection they have made. Sean and his family will be a wonderful addition to the Huskie family and I am incredibly excited about this announcement.”
Ohio State University, Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics
“Sean has the leadership skills and talents that will contribute to the continued growth of Huskie athletics. He is one of the best administrators in the country. Great hire by NIU!”
2012-13 Executive Director of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association
“Northern Illinois is hiring an individual that will do a great job. Sean is a person that has done great work everywhere he has been and he is an outstanding selection. I first met Sean when I worked at the NCAA, he was one of the first people to contact me regarding professional development and I have watched his career ever since. I have watched him at the various places he has been, it has always been an upward progression and he has always done a good job at the various institutions where he has been.
“He is the chair of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association, so we have worked on a lot of committees together and he has always been a supporter of enhancing opportunities for individuals to participate in athletics.”
University of Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Head Coach
“Sean Frazier’s hiring is Wisconsin’s loss, but Northern Illinois’ gain. Sean is very straightforward to deal with and he’s a true professional. He is one of the best administrators I’ve ever been around and he’s more than ready for an athletics director job. I wish him the best of luck.”
Northern Illinois University, President
“In Sean Frazier, we have found a personable, honest, passionate, confident, experienced administrator who is committed to NIU and to the success of our student-athletes. He has built facilities, built programs and dealt with tough issues effectively as a director of athletics and as the deputy athletic director at an excellent program. He understands the changing NCAA environment, is a national leader in fostering diversity and brings an inspiring and engaging leadership style that will build bridges with the local community and with our many constituencies.”