New UIC athletic director Garrett Klassy has been here before.
Before getting hired to succeed longtime AD Jim Schmidt, Klassy’s previous job was senior associate athletic director for external relations at George Washington. Like UIC, Washington, D.C.-based GWU is in a fully stocked major market fighting for attention.
Klassy believes his experience will help at UIC, where he officially took over Aug. 15.
“I’m going to engage the community,” Klassy said. “You’re going to see myself and our entire staff out in the city of Chicago building meaningful relationships. When we talk to fans, we’re going to have a shared vision, we’re going to be aligned and we’re going to be an outwardly thinking athletic department that’s very innovative, looking for opportunities.”
That wouldn’t hurt UIC, which is one of many colleges fighting for attention in the area. Klassy knows UIC must be proactive.
“We’re going to be very aggressive when it comes to marketing,” he said. “I think the one advantage we have here is that one of every 10 college graduates in the city of Chicago is a UIC alum, so we have a built-in fan base. It’s how do we get them re-engaged? How do we get them involved? How do we make a name for ourselves in the city? We’re going to be aggressive.”
Klassy said that the advertising and marketing plans aren’t finalized but that “people will know our story.” It wouldn’t hurt if the story included a lot of victories by the school’s highest-profile programs: men’s and women’s basketball.
Last season, the men were 17-19 overall and 7-11 in Horizon League play and reached the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. The women went 6-25 and 2-16.
“They’re the programs that can be on national TV. They’re the ones that can really elevate the rest of our programs,” Klassy said. “It’s really twofold: How do we market, how do we reach out, how do we tell our story? And then we have to win some ballgames.”
If that happens, it could help the athletic department reach another of Klassy’s goals.
“Everyone that I’ve met on campus thus far understands how athletics can enhance the university mission and the brand,” Klassy said. “We’re going to be great partners with the campus, and that’s what we want to do. We want to bring some more notoriety, we want the city and the state and the country to keep taking notice of UIC.”
Follow me on Twitter @BrianSandalow.
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