After six seasons of unprecedented success for the IPFW athletic programs, its leader is leaving for a new challenge.
Mastodon athletic director Tommy Bell resigned on Monday to accept the same position with Summit League foe Western Illinois.
“[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 in a release. “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 returns to the state of Illinois, where he spent six years as the Constituent Development Office for the Southern Illinois Athletics Department, as well as nine years working in the athletic development office at Northern Illinois.
“[I'm] not going to come in here and reinvent the wheel,” Bell said. “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. We will develop signature sports programs that will mirror the signature university programs on the academic side that are already in place.”
IPFW athletics are coming off the most successful year in department history, as three of its women’s programs (volleyball, softball and tennis) advanced to the NCAA postseason.
In addition to the Mastodons’ team success, IPFW student-athletes excelled, as well.
Three players were named Summit League Player of the Year, while Margaret Saurin was named as the conference women’s soccer Coach of the Year.
That level of success carried over into the classroom, as the Mastodon student-athletes achieved an overall grade point average of 3.0 for the 10th straight year.
“Tommy has been with IPFW for six years and in that time has helped usher Athletics into a new era with marked successes including a record 2012-2013 season,” Chancellor Vicky Carwein said in a release. “We wish him the best as he takes on a new role and are looking forward to many more Athletics department successes.”
Bell’s ability to lead an athletic department has been impressive, but he came to Fort Wayne with the reputation as a marketing and fund raising savant.
He didn’t disappoint.
Through his tenure, Bell and the IPFW athletics department expanded their brand by entering into a marketing agreement with Nelligan Sports Marketing. He also helped secure funding to endow scholarships for the men’s volleyball program, as well as established the Mastodon Athletic Scholarship Fund, which raises money for the scholarship dollars for student-athletes.
Over the past academic calendar year, IPFW enjoyed its most successful fundraising year in department history.
Bell also oversaw the construction of a new academic center for Mastodon student-athletes, which is in the process of being completed. Some of the future projects scheduled for completion 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."
Carwein indicated that a transition plan will be developed in the near future and an interim director of athletics and recreation will soon be named. A national search for a new director will begin immediately.