Jill Bodensteiner’s First 90 Days As The Director Of Athletics At Saint Joseph’s

October 8th, 2018 | by Dan Gale
Jill Bodensteiner’s First 90 Days As The Director Of Athletics At Saint Joseph’s

Jill Bodensteiner
Jill Bodensteiner officially began her tenure as Saint Joseph’s Director of Athletics on June 1, following the retirement of longtime Saint Joe’s AD Don DiJulia. Bodensteiner, who’s hiring was announced in March, has hit the ground running since taking over on Hawk Hill. Dan Gale recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jill Bodensteiner and discuss her first 90 days in office. Bodensteiner shared what she’s done since taking over at Saint Joseph’s, how she prepared to for the job,  shares advice for other first time ADs, as well as future plans for the Hawks.

Dan Gale: First and foremost Jill, tell us about your first 90 days and what has been your focus at St. Joseph’s.

Jill Bodensteiner: As cliche as it sounds, it was really important for me to listen and learn. I had 100+ meetings, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I really dug into our twenty intercollegiate programs to see what I could learn about each one individually. It really was a critical 90 days! I’m not a patient person, so it was really hard for me not to move forward right away. You have these ideas and you want to start implementing, but I think that’s one quick way you can falter in the beginning is by pushing your ideas before listening and understanding the landscape.

It was great that I started June 1 because 90 days was literally the entire summer and it afforded me the opportunity to really get to know the people and the place.

Dan Gale: You mentioned not pushing your agenda forward, was that the biggest piece of advice you’d offer to a first time athletic director?

Jill Bodensteiner: I really do think that patience is the piece of advice that I would recommend, and that’s what I heard from my network. I talked to a lot of athletic directors and every single one of them preached the importance of patience. There is a tendency to want to go in whenever you are in a new situation to prove yourself, and I think that can be dangerous. I’d rather prove myself over time by getting people to buy into what I’m doing and have more collaboration by listening to people in the early days. Now the ideas are theirs, whether they’re a group or one person collectively, they know I’ve been out there listening. It gets people more fired up during the implementation phase because they were part of the process.

I think first-time athletic directors are probably relatively driven as I am and want to get things done immediately, but that’s not always the best way. I really appreciate that advice that I got and that’s what I’d pass on to others.

Dan Gale: Knowing your brand is in a very unique market with many options for both professional and collegiate sports, what do you see are some of those opportunities for promotion of the brand after the first 90 days?

Jill Bodensteiner: It’s a tough market, but a great market because the folks here are passionate about the Hawks, they’re passionate about college basketball, so that’s all good. Part of my strategy is communication and transparency. College athletics is a really fascinating profession from an intellectual, academic perspective, and I’m trying to share that with our stakeholders.

I did what we call ”SJU Live” that got a hundred alumni in person and a couple thousand views on Facebook. I just talked about the state of college athletics and my goal is to give folks a peek behind the curtain, what’s going on with the finances, what’s going on with the lawsuit. I started a podcast, ‘Jill on the Hill’ which you can get on iTunes.

jill bodensteinerThe goal is transparency, communication, promotion, featuring prominent Saint Joe alums who are in the sports industry, giving some exposure to our student-athletes by having them on the podcast. In so many different ways, communication is one of my number one strategic priorities for exactly the reason you wisely identified…it’s a tough market and you’ve got to let people know what’s going on and you have to do it in a different way. Part of my differentiation is going to be transparency.

Dan Gale: How has the transition been from your past role at Notre Dame to now leading the whole department? What’s been the biggest adjustment for you?

Jill Bodensteiner: What I love about leading the entire department is you get to use every aspect of your brain! The creative piece when you’re thinking about how can we best tell our story, the financial piece when you’re really looking and digging into the budget and figuring out how we can generate more revenue. The vision piece – if you’re trying to generate more revenue, people have to believe in my vision and the details behind that vision. My legal background comes in handy in certain areas, whether it’s policy or educating student-athletes and navigating all the complexities of sports betting and all those sorts of things.

So probably what I like best is just the variety and getting to use all those different parts of my brain.

With the transition, I went back to Notre Dame and talked to my old boss, Jack Swarbrick, and thanked him because I feel so prepared for this position and this transition in large part because of everything he taught me. But I also feel like I spent the last 10-years, learning how to be an athletic director instead of focusing on how to become an athletic director. My path to getting to the job may have been a little bit slower than others, but I was 100% focused at Notre Dame, in everything we did, I thought “what would I do if I were the decision maker here?”

Hats off to Jack and my colleagues at Notre Dame who I learned a ton from because there is nothing in this position that has surprised or intimidated me.

Jill Bodensteiner

Dan Gale: You mentioned your path and longevity at Notre Dame, what was it that made Saint Joe’s appealing to be that school to finally say, ‘This is it!’

Jill Bodensteiner: All the right pieces were there, it’s a basketball school, I’m a basketball person, that was really important to me. I’ve spent my last 20-years at a faith-based institution at Notre Dame, so the Jesuit tradition here at Saint Joe’s was really important to me. I think what really did it — and I remember calling Daniel Parker and saying “this is it” – was after I met Dr. Reed, the President, and saw his vision for the entire institution and just getting so energized about the role that athletics could play and should play in achieving the goals of the institution, which are lofty and really exciting.

Those conversations and reviewing the strategic plan that Dr. Reed and my now-colleagues put together that really made me think this was a fit. I knew the culture and the values were in place and that all I would have to do is maybe tweak a little bit of the strategy. That foundation — thanks to Don DiJulia was there — so all of those things made it really a very attractive position. My only hesitation was picking up and leaving the midwest, because I never at any time lived in Philadelphia and don’t know anyone out here, but other than that the position was perfect. Any of those hesitations have proven to really not be a concern because the people here are so welcoming and great.

Dan Gale: So now you’ve been there for 90-days, built some great relationships, now what can everyone expect to see in the next 90, 180, 360 coming out of Hawk Hill?

Jill Bodensteiner: Everybody talks about it and again it’s really cliche, but we’ve got to make sure the student experience is consistent with the Jesuit tradition, which is a holistic development of students. Jesuit tradition is all about education, and athletics has to be a critical part of that education. So just making sure, whether it’s career, leadership, faith formation, and then the student experience on the field. All aspects of the student experience have to be first and foremost, so I’m focusing a lot on that, but that takes revenue. So focusing on all the ways we can continue to generate revenue so we can provide that incredible experience.

As I said, the culture is in great shape, but I want to really increase expectations, I want to know that every one of our twenty programs with the right culture and right talent in place and growing resources that we can succeed, and I want people to start thinking championships.

Dan Gale About Dan Gale
Dan Gale has been working in and around college athletics for the past 15 years. He has worked in fundraising and operations at the University of North Carolina, Temple University and East Stroudsburg University. He spent the bulk of his career at CBS Collegiate Sports Properties in leadership roles at the United States Air Force Academy, Old Dominion University, Towson University and University of Maryland. Upon leaving college athletics, he spent four years in the private sector building companies focusing with college athletics in the areas of technology and secondary ticket sales. He is currently the President of Leona Marketing Group, helping athletic departments formulate their revenue generation strategies and negotiating their multimedia rights.

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