*Release Courtesy of UIC Athletic Communications
CHICAGO – Jim Schmidt, Director of Athletics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), has announced that he will officially retire from the position on August 1, 2017, following 22 years at the helm of the Flames and 36 years overall at UIC.
"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," said UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis. "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."
"I owe everything I have to the University of Illinois at Chicago," said Schmidt. "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."
Permanently named UIC's fourth Athletic Director on December 11, 1996, Schmidt is the longest-serving person in that position in the Horizon League. He has constructed a department that has exceled on a championship level, not only within the conference, but on the regional and national scenes as well. Under his direction, UIC has advanced to NCAA postseason competition on 49 occasions, while amassing a total of 80 conference championships. By contrast, in 15 years as an NCAA Division I member prior to Schmidt's tenure as the Director of Athletics, the Flames earned nine NCAA postseason berths while accumulating 11 conference titles.
Under Schmidt's leadership, UIC was twice awarded the Horizon League's James J. McCafferty Trophy, in 2000 and 2007. This honor goes to the most successful all-around athletic program in the Horizon League each season. In addition, the first-ever 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 went on to establish itself as a dynasty by winning an unprecedented 16 consecutive conference championships and making 14-straight NCAA Tournament appearances through 2013.
On May 12, 2015, Schmidt was announced as the 2014-15 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). He was one of only 28 leaders from across the country to be recognized, and one of only four from the Division I-AAA grouping.
"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. For me it has, and will always be, faith, family and the Flames! 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. On August 6, 2010, Schmidt introduced women's golf as a varsity sport. Just over two years later, on Nov. 15, 2012, the department added women's soccer to its portfolio. With the addition of women's soccer, UIC sponsors all 10 Horizon League women's sports and 11 overall.
Not only has UIC raised its sights in competition across all 20 athletic programs, but the Flames have accomplished tremendous feats in the classroom, while also contributing in the community. During the 2016 fall semester, UIC's 349 student-athletes posted a collective grade-point average for the term of 3.12, which is the highest ever. Seventeen of the department's 20 teams registered a mark above 3.0 and 195 student-athletes (56 percent) were at or above a 3.0 GPA. Forty-one of those Flames earned a spotless average of 4.0.
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, new tennis courts and soccer fields, as well. 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, at a cost of $11 million in 1997.
As Director of Athletics, 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 served as the pitching coach on the baseball staff. 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 Sept. 1, 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," said Schmidt. "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 on to forever."
A national search will begin immediately to identify Schmidt's successor. UIC plans to have a new Director of Athletics selected and in place by August 1, 2017.
Schmidt graduated from Western Illinois University in 1981 with a degree in sports management. He and his wife, Mary, reside in Naperville, Ill. They are proud parents of two adult children, Bill and Eva.