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"We Develop Champions; In the Classroom, In Competition, and In Life."
This is the vision Jeff Compher has for the Northern Illinois University Athletics department. In his fifth year as the Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics at NIU, Compher has been instrumental in assembling a group of outstanding coaches, and making strategic decisions to keep the athletics program moving forward. Meanwhile, Compher has been busy engaging student-athletes, and aggressively planning for the next generation of intercollegiate athletics.
In 2008, Compher led the development of the NIU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics' Strategic Plan which defined the mission, vision and values of the department while setting strategic goals and objectives for each unit. In 2011-12, having achieved many of those standards, the Huskies revised and refined the plan with new goals and strategies to meet new challenges and changing times.
Under Compher, Huskie student-athletes have raised the bar academically. In the last seven years, all 17 intercollegiate athletic teams have surpassed the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR) every year. The NIU football team has ranked in the Top 12 in the country in APR in each of the last four years. Northern Illinois has had seven Academic All-Americans, two National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, an NCAA Woman of the Year finalist and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner in the last three years.
Northern Illinois won a school record four Mid-American Conference Championships in 2011-12 with football, men's soccer and volleyball bringing home titles in the fall, and men's tennis securing the league crown last spring.
The Huskie football team won its second straight MAC crown in 2012 and, after winning 12 consecutive games following a season-opening loss, became the first Mid-American Conference team to play in the Bowl Championship Series by earning a berth in the Discover Orange Bowl. NIU made its fifth straight bowl appearance and has won 11-or-more games in each of the last three seasons. On the day NIU earned its historic BCS bid, Compher announced the elevation of offensive coordinator Rod Carey to head coach, replacing Dave Doeren, who led the Huskies to the school's first MAC football title in 28 years and 23 wins in two seasons.
During his tenure, Compher has hired 12 of NIU's 16 current head coaches, most recently softball's Christina Sutcliffe and Kim Kester of women's golf. Compher hired former Michigan State assistant coach Mark Montgomery to lead the men's basketball program in March 2011 and brought Doeren to NIU from Wisconsin.
Over the past year, Compher has helped Northern Illinois secure more than $9 million in donations toward construction of the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center, an indoor training facility that will benefit every Huskie team. Construction on the Chessick Center, located adjacent to the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center in the middle of NIU's athletic footprint, began in the fall of 2012 and is slated for completion in 2013.
Thanks to the efforts of Compher and a local organizing committee, Northern Illinois' Huskie Stadium will be the site of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) football championships five times over the next 10 years, bringing visitors and tourism revenue to the community and to NIU.
Compher has been instrumental in preserving the Huskies' place in the Chicago media market, the third-largest market in the United States. In 2012, NIU and its multimedia rightsholder IMG College, announced a renewal of its agreement with Chicago sports radio powerhouse WSCR 670 "The Score" to serve as the broadcast home of Northern Illinois University football games, as well as "NIU Weekly" a radio show co-hosted by Compher.
Fundraising has been on the rise during Compher's tenure. For the sixth-straight year, the primary direct support organization for NIU Athletics, the Huskie Athletic Support Fund, finished its annual fund drive with record-breaking figures in 2012 as gifts surpassed the million-dollar mark for the sixth-consecutive year.
A veteran collegiate athletics administrator, Compher came to DeKalb after nearly four years at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he served as executive associate athletic director and was responsible for the general management and daily operations of the athletic department. The Baltimore, Md., native also brought previous experience as an athletic director to NIU, as he led the athletics program at Western Carolina University from 2000 to 2004.
In each of his previous three stops, Compher was involved in developing and implementing long-range planning and working closely with constituencies within and outside the university. He has emphasized the student-athlete experience at every stop of his career.
At both UW and Western Carolina, Compher was directly involved with capital projects and facility renovations, including construction of a new track/soccer and tennis complex and a significant expansion of the football stadium at Western Carolina, and the completion of the Football Legends Center at the University of Washington.
As associate and then senior associate athletic director at Vanderbilt University for four years, Compher directed nearly every area of the department, including leading the external areas from 1998-2000. Prior to that, he oversaw the NCAA compliance, academic support, strength and conditioning, equipment and CHAMPS/Life Skills areas at Vanderbilt.
Compher spent 13 years in several different positions at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. As assistant athletic director at N.C. State from 1986-92, he managed the student-athlete support services units, established the first life skills program and handled scheduling for the football and men's basketball teams. He was the assistant to the chancellor at N.C. State before moving back into athletics administration at Vanderbilt.
Throughout his career, the 53-year-old Compher has continued his education, participating in the NACDA Management Institute (1998), the Sports Management Institute Executive Program (1998-99) and the Division I-A Athletic Directors' Institute (2005 and 2006).
Compher earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from James Madison University, where he was a football student-athlete, in 1980, and graduated with a master's degree in counseling and student personnel services from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania in 1982. His first position in collegiate administration was at North Carolina State, where he was the assistant director of Housing and Residence Life from 1982-86.
He and his wife, Cathy, have two sons, C.J. (20) and David (17).