Athletic Director of the Year
Boo Corrigan, Army
At the U.S. Military Academy, they call it “the fields of friendly strife.” That’s where Army’s intercollegiate teams have recently achieved some of the highest levels of success as at any point in the academy’s illustrious 128-year athletic history. At the helm during that time has been Boo Corrigan, Army’s athletic director for the last seven years. Corrigan has overseen a time of transition, creating a nonprofit arm to operate the business side of Army athletics. The Black Knights also have turned football around, beating Navy twice in a row and winning 10 games in 2017, tying the program record for wins in a season. Army also won the Patriot League’s 2017 President’s Cup for overall athletic success.
Danny White, UCF
When Alabama’s athletic director, Greg Byrne, and ESPN’s lead college football analyst, Kirk Herbstreit, were tweeting about UCF football during the offseason, that was all the evidence Danny White needed to know that he was doing the right thing in promoting the undefeated Knights as national champions. White decided to turn UCF’s exclusion from the four-team playoff, despite owning the nation’s only unblemished record, into a reason to celebrate by making the most of the moment, staging a parade and ordering championship rings. White used his marketing intuition to manufacture a mythical championship as a platform for the school. By the way, UCF football season-ticket sales are well ahead of last year’s pace.
Jeff Bourne, James Madison
The scene on the Quad at James Madison University last October was straight out of a big-time football program. Close to 14,000 fans gathered on the lawn in the middle of JMU’s campus, nearly losing their collective minds when Lee Corso pulled out the Dukes’ mascot head and put it on. It marked the second time in three years that ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew had settled into Harrisonburg, Va. — a nod to what Jeff Bourne has built in almost two decades at the school. James Madison might play football at the FCS level, but the Dukes certainly operate like a power program, winning 28 games over the last two seasons and twice appearing in the national championship game.
Jim Phillips, Northwestern
The word “transformative” is used just about every time a school so much as adds a new coat of paint to an existing facility. But in Northwestern’s case, the $270 million lakefront project set to open this summer truly will transform the Wildcats’ facilities. Ryan Fieldhouse features a multipurpose indoor field for football, practice spaces for Olympic sports, lockers, weight rooms, academic centers, nutrition zones and other competition areas. Best of all might be the spectacular view of Lake Michigan from the building’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The project has been Jim Phillips’ vision since, oh, 2011 when he began pitching the idea to university leaders. During the last seven years, Phillips has had a few other visions — the basketball team making the NCAA Tournament for the first time; a renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena; football regularly competing in the upper echelon of the Big Ten. It all happened last year.
Sandy Barbour, Penn State
The Nittany Lions are enjoying one of their most successful periods across all sports. Under Sandy Barbour’s leadership, Penn State has revived both the football and men’s basketball programs, even as the school emerged in recent years from the Sandusky scandal. Football won 11 games last season, while basketball won 26 games and the NIT title. At the same time Barbour, working with Populous, presented her vision for the future of Penn State’s facilities with a long-term master plan that will deliver a much-needed remodel and update to many of them, including a planned Beaver Stadium renovation that has been compared to Kyle Field at Texas A&M for its high-end finishings and premium seating. Barbour also is recognized as an influential voice nationally, sitting on the NCAA’s football oversight committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s collegiate advisory council.