Note: This story appears in the Friday, Aug. 16 newspaper on Page B1.
Ohio University’s next Director of Athletics will also be the first of her kind in Athens.
Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis named Julie Cromer as Ohio’s next AD in a release issued Thursday morning. Cromer will become the first female athletics director in university history when she assumes the role on Aug. 31.
“Her talent, vision, and passion for intercollegiate athletics and the student-athlete experience will only serve to elevate our athletic program and our University,” Nellis said in a released statement.
“With a keen understanding and focus for ways in which athletics can serve as a front porch for our University, Julie is especially poised to enhance our athletics program, bolster our student-athlete experience, and increase academic engagement,” Nellis added. “I am confident that Julie is the right person to lead our Bobcat Athletics family as we move forward.”
Cromer comes to Ohio from the University of Arkansas, where she was serving as the deputy athletics director, associate vice chancellor and senior woman administrator for Razorback Athletics. Cromer also currently serves on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and is a member of the Board of Directors of Women Leaders in College Sports.
A 10 a.m. introductory press conference on Friday has been scheduled for Cromer at the Sook Academic Center, located on the north side of Peden Stadium.
Cromer was one of four finalists for the AD position at Ohio. Cromer edged out Diana Sabau (Deputy Director fo Athletics at Ohio State), Jason Grooms (Assistant AD — Football at Vanderbilt) and Jared Benko (Depury AD/CFO at Mississippi State) for the position. All four finalists interviewed, and toured Ohio’s campus last week.
Ohio has been searching for its next AD since early June when former AD Jim Schaus announced his departure to become the conference commissioner for the Southern Conference.
Since July 1, Amy Dean has been acting as Ohio’s interim AD. She was named Deputy AD in 2016, and began working at Ohio University in 1999.
Both a search firm, and Ohio’s own 15-member search committee, contributed to the candidate search. Ohio’s committee included current Ohio coaches Frank Solich (football) and Ali Johnstone (field hockey), and current Bobcat student-athlete Melissa Koziol.
Nellis cited Cromer’s experience across the collegiate athletics landscape stood out from the finalists pool. She has been a day-to-day administrator for 19 varsity sports, helped lead strategic planning efforts, assisted with capital fundraising and served as a liaison to campus governance groups and to the Southeastern Conference.
Cromer also spent 10 years working in the NCAA national office, including as the director of academic and membership affairs. She left the NCAA to join Indiana University as the executive associate athletics director, where she was one of the first women in the Big Ten Conference to supervise all elements of a collegiate football program.
“I am humbled and honored to join a University that has been consistently competitive in the Mid-American Conference and that has a stellar reputation for integrity, inclusive excellence and ensuring student academic success,” Cromer said in a released statement. “I look forward to joining the outstanding Ohio athletics student-athletes, coaches and staff as we engage with our campus to support our student-athletes in their academic pursuits while winning conference championships.”
Cromer, like each of the finalists that Ohio considered, had experience at the power conference level of running, overseeing, or fundraising for a football program.
Ohio head coach Frank Solich said those that he spoke to gave Cromer strong reviews. He spoke with former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema during this process.
“I think she’s a good choice,” Solich said following the Bobcats’ Thursday morning practice inside Peden Stadium. “People that have known her, that have worked under her, have spoked very highly of her.
“I think she’ll do a terrific job here.”
One of the other finalists — Grooms — is an Ohio graduate, and coached at Ohio. Grooms worked with Solich as his director of football operations before leaving five years ago to go to Vanderbilt.
It’s no secret Solich thought highly of Grooms’ candidacy, and still does. But Solich is on board with the new athletic department boss.
“When you’re battling with a lot of elite candidates you just never know for sure how it’s quite going to turn,” Solich said. “I thought (Grooms) presented himself well.
“People who interviewed him thought very highly of him. Didn’t have quite the credentials that some of the others had,” he continued. “But I like what he’s all about.”