ISU names Friedman as its new athletic director

2011-05-10T13:17:00Z 2011-05-11T19:40:03Z ISU names Friedman as its new athletic directorBy Jim Benson |

NORMAL -- Gary Friedman is coming back to his home state. Friedman, who was born in Chicago and grew up in suburban Deerfield, was named Illinois State's athletic director on Tuesday in a news release by the university.

There will be a 1:30 p.m. news conference Wednesday at the Kaufman Football Building where Friedman will be formally introduced by ISU president Al Bowman.

For the last 10 years, Friedman has been at Louisville as associate athletic director for development from 2001-09 and senior associate athletic director for external operations the last two years. He replaces Sheahon Zenger, who left ISU in January to accept the AD post at Kansas.

Other finalists for the ISU position were Jane Meyer, senior associate athletic director at Iowa, and Brian Wickstrom, senior associate athletic director at Texas-El Paso.

Friedman was unavailable for comment Tuesday. However, during his open forum at ISU on April 26, Friedman said the school's mascots (Louisville Cardinals and ISU Redbirds) weren't the only common factors between the schools.

"The best part about Louisville is we've worked together all as one university," said Friedman. "We had a great relationship with the president. That's a very important similarity I see here at Illinois State."

Friedman has led fundraising and been involved with design and construction of several major facilities at Louisville totaling more than $350 million. ISU's baseball team played in one of those facilities last year during an NCAA regional.

A renovation of Hancock Stadium figures to be at the top of Friedman's to-do list when he officially begins his new post. Ironically, ISU announced when Friedman was on campus for his interview that the stands in Hancock Stadium's south end zone would be removed this summer after an engineering study found them to be potentially unsafe.

"From my standpoint football and softball are top priorities, working together with the university to get those done," he said during the open forum.

Before joining Louisville in 2001, Friedman was involved in fundraising activities for five years as associate AD for external operations at Central Michigan and four years as assistant AD for external operations at East Tennessee State.

Friedman earned two degrees from the University of Illinois -- a bachelor's in marketing in 1989 and a master's in athletic administration in 1992. He worked as an assistant to the associate athletic director at Illinois from 1988-91 before heading to East Tennessee State.

"Every school faces challenges. The same process we worked at to build Central Michigan and Louisville, the fundamentals don't change," said Friedman. "That's why I see such an opportunity here with Illinois State with our success in what we've done and grown at Central Michigan and Louisville is something I look forward to having the opportunity to do here."

Friedman and his wife, Ra'Tonya, have two sons, Noa'Sosa, 3 1/2, and Nehemiah, 1 1/2. Ra'Tonya Friedman was crowned Mrs. Kentucky America in 2008.

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