Longtime athletic director to retire
Jim Schmidt, director of athletics at UIC for the past 22 years, will retire Aug. 1.
Schmidt, who has worked at UIC for the past 36 years, is the longest-serving athletic director in the Horizon League.
“On behalf of the entire UIC community, we are incredibly thankful for the service that Jim Schmidt has provided to this university for more than three decades,” Chancellor Michael Amiridis said. “He fostered the growth of our athletic teams through the Division I era, while guiding a department that has prospered in three critical areas: the classroom, the community, and competition.
“Jim has been an invaluable resource to me since I arrived on campus two years ago,” Amiridis said. “His loyalty and passion for the Flames is unmatched and his talent and leadership as a respected administrator will be missed by all of us. We are grateful for the commitment he has made as the Director of Athletics for 22 years, and wish him a wonderful retirement as he starts a new chapter in his life.”
Schmidt has constructed a department that has exceled on a championship level, not only within the conference, but also on the regional and national scenes. Under his direction, UIC has advanced to NCAA postseason competition 49 times, while amassing a total of 80 conference championships. In the 15 years before Schmidt’s tenure that UIC was an NCAA Division I school, the Flames had just nine NCAA postseasons and 11 conference titles.
“I owe everything I have to the University of Illinois at Chicago,” Schmidt said. “Being here since the infancy of the Division I era and working to build a quality organization has been an honor. I have been blessed to work with so many talented and successful student-athletes, coaches and administrators. To be able to go out on my own terms is not easy in these changing times of Division I athletics.”
Under Schmidt’s leadership, UIC was twice awarded the Horizon League’s James J. McCafferty Trophy — in 2000 and 2007. The honor is given to the most successful all-around athletic program in the Horizon League each season. In addition, the first NCAA postseason bids for the men’s basketball (1998), women’s tennis (1999), men’s soccer (1999) and baseball (2003) programs all occurred under his supervision. The women’s tennis program established itself as a dynasty by winning an unprecedented 16 consecutive conference championships and making 14-straight NCAA Tournament appearances through 2013.
In 2015, Schmidt was selected as the 2014–15 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. He was one of only 28 leaders from across the country to be recognized, and one of four from Division I-AAA.
“UIC is a unique and special place,” Schmidt said. “The future for athletics is incredibly bright and I cannot wait to be the Flames’ biggest fan moving forward. The growth and struggles in the early years of Division I have only made the last 15 years even more memorable. Chancellor Amiridis has a strong vision for the future and I’m looking forward to the success of the Flames and the university.”
Schmidt has been instrumental in expanding UIC’s athletic offerings, adding two programs in the last seven years: women’s golf in 2010 and women’s soccer in 2012.
Not only has UIC raised its sights in competition across all 20 athletic programs, but the Flames also have accomplished tremendous feats in the classroom and community. During the 2016 fall semester, UIC’s 349
student-athletes posted a collective grade-point average for the term of 3.12 — the highest ever.
The Flames’ fundraising efforts under Schmidt have resulted in new and improved facilities, including new team rooms for all sports, Curtis Granderson Stadium for baseball, and tennis courts and soccer fields. He also spearheaded $7 million in improvements and upgrades to the UIC Pavilion, home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. In addition, UIC opened the Flames Athletic Center, the day-to-day hub of the department, in 1997.
Schmidt instituted the Champions Club fundraising arm in 2005. The Champions Club energized and bolstered UIC’s scholarships fund that supports all 20 of the department’s athletic programs.
Schmidt first arrived at UIC in 1982, when he was the baseball pitching coach. From 1983–86, Schmidt was an assistant athletic director and he handled all sports information duties, as well as marketing, promotions and daily operations for the department. He assumed the role of an associate athletic director in 1987 and he served in that post until 1995, when he was named interim athletic director following the retirement of friend and mentor Tom Russo.
“Having the opportunity to work at one institution my entire career is distinctive,” Schmidt said. “I was able to see our programs grow throughout the Division I years and build meaningful relationships with so many people that I will hold onto forever.”
A national search beings immediately to identify Schmidt’s successor.
Schmidt graduated from Western Illinois University in 1981 with a degree in sports management. He and his wife, Mary, live in Naperville. They have a son, Bill, and daughter, Eva.