By: Jay Kidwell
Tommy Bell has been hired as Western Illinois University Director of Athletics. Dr. Gary Biller, University Vice President of Student Services, made the announcement on Monday (July 15).
Bell officially begins his new duties with the Leathernecks on August 12th. He becomes the sixth Athletics Director for the Leathernecks since 1926.
"[My wife] Laurie and I look so forward to being a part of this great institution, we are very excited and are deeply honored to be chosen to have this opportunity," Bell said at his introductory press conference. "Most importantly, my administration is going to focus on Western Illinois' four values that they stress here at the institution: academic excellence, educational opportunity, social responsibility, and personal growth."
Bell served as Director of Athletics at Fort Wayne (IPFW) the past six years, and the Mastodons are coming off the most successful year in department history. Bell saw three of his programs advance to the NCAA postseason in 2012-13: volleyball, softball and women's tennis.
"[I'm] not going to come in here and reinvent the wheel; we're just going to get the wheel rolling and we want everyone pushing to get the wheel rolling and look for creative ways for people to be involved, excited, and everyone pulling in the same direction," Bell added. "We will develop signature sports programs that will mirror the signature university programs on the academic side that are already in place."
Three players were named Summit League ‘Player of the Year', and the Mastodons received the women's soccer ‘Coach of the Year' award. Fifteen of the 16 programs participated in the Summit League Tournaments. The Mastodons continued their impressive academics success as for the 10th straight year, the departmental grade point average finished at 3.0 or better.
Known for his marketing and fund raising abilities, Bell and the IPFW athletics department expanded their brand by entering into a marketing agreement with Nelligan Sports Marketing. Bell secured funding to endow scholarships for the men's volleyball program, which finished as the NCAA Division I national runner-up in 2007. He also established the Mastodon Athletic Scholarship Fund, which raises money for the scholarship dollars for student-athletes.
The 2012-13 academic year also marked the best fundraising year in department history. A new academic center for Mastodon student-athletes is in the process of being completed. Other recent and future facility enhancements include: a new video scoreboard in the Gates Sports Center, a new playing surface on the tennis complex, locker room renovations for the basketball and volleyball programs, and new scoreboard at the soccer stadium.
"Tommy brings many years of experience to Western," said President Jack Thomas. "His success in fundraising and leadership will further enhance Western Illinois University's athletic programs. Tommy will put administrative measures in place to help Western win championships in multiple sports. He will also continue to make certain that intercollegiate athletics upholds the academic standards and integrity of our student-athletes."
Bell previously served as the Chair of the Summit League Tennis committee, and currently as the Chair of the League's Baseball committee. He's also currently serving a four-year term on the NCAA Amateurism Committee.
"We wanted someone with Division I experience, someone who knew our conferences and the nuances within those conferences, we wanted someone who was a good budget manager, someone who could work with coaches from 20 different sports, and we wanted someone who could help us raise money," Vice President Dr. Gary Biller said regarding Bell at the introductory press conference.
Prior to his arrival in Fort Wayne, Bell spent six years as the Constituent Development Office for the Southern Illinois Athletics Department. He oversaw all fund raising efforts for the Salukis, including the creation of the Saluki Athletic Scholarship Fund in the fall of 2002 and increased that fund by 500 percent during his tenure. Bell led the capital campaign efforts for the Saluki Way master facility plan.
He worked from 1990-99 in the athletic development office at Northern Illinois. He also served as Head Athletic Trainer at Radford University in Virginia from 1980 to 1984 and then serving full time as athletic trainer for the Philadelphia Phillies AAA affiliate Portland Beavers from 1984-1987.
A 1979 graduate of Virginia Tech, Bell earned his master's degree from Radford in 1987. He and his wife Laurie have two children, Joey and Courtney, and one granddaughter.
Graduate Assistant for Athletics Media Services Western Illinois University