Frazier no rookie to university athletics

By Jacob Onak

A new era is about to start in NIU athletics: the Sean Frazier era.

Frazier was named the new athletic director on July 16 and is starting to get settled into DeKalb and NIU athletics.

Frazier takes over from Jeff Compher, who stepped down on March 6 to become the athletics director of Eastern Carolina University.

Frazier comes from the University of Wisconsin, a program that has ties to NIU as there have been staff members who have come from Wisconsin, including women’s basketball head coach Kathi Bennett.

“I had a chance to really evaluate NIU on a lot of different levels,” Frazier said. “It wasn’t something that was sneaking up on me, and when the opportunity came open I said I’d like to pursue that opportunity and just didn’t know President [Doug] Baker. He was the final piece for me, and he’s been fantastic — just his energy, his leadership skill. That was the only piece of the puzzle: I didn’t know the president and once that was in place I was all in.”

After the football program’s nationally recognized success it was hard for NIU not to stay off Frazier’s radar, but he said it’s not just the football program he is looking at.

“I’m not going to single out a sport,” Frazier said. “I’ll just say that all the different success and the MAC championships that the folks have won, being competitive, were one that when I evaluated the programs and I evaluated NIU as a possible opportunity, it hit all the buttons. Basically they all do a very good job and I’m excited to be involved with them.”

One of the programs that hasn’t sustained a lot of success in the past two season is the men’s basketball program: The Huskies have gone just 10-51 in the past two years, but Frazier sees the program as an opportunity.

“Sitting down, obviously with both men’s and women’s basketball programs, same thing with football, baseball, all the programs, you want to be able to position the coaches and the students in a way where they can be successful,” Frazier said. “…What do you need? How can I be successful? There are things that we need to do around facilities, support, resources…class schedules, just everything that goes into putting together a championship program…I can go on and on. They’re all these different criteria that have to be in place.”

When the football schedule came out there were questions about only having five home games after a successful year. The scheduling issue, not only for football but for all sports, is something Frazier looks to change.

“I’m talking about all [scheduling],” Frazier said. “I’m seeing tie-in’s that we do schedule, I’m going back to Wisconsin again, could we schedule them in basketball as well, could we do a bit of a combination of both? So, I’m going to be really aggressive around the football scheduling, basketball scheduling, across the board. The fan experiences are key.”

Another issue plaguing NIU athletics has been the low attendance at the basketball and football games. The issue doesn’t just come from the scheduling, Frazier said, but also from the facilities, the vending and providing a key fan experience.

He said the University of Wisconsin brought in the Disney Company to help with the fan experience, which helped him think of ideas to raise the NIU attendance.

“I am going to put some things in play where it’s going to be fun,” Frazier said. “…We are going to do some of the old school marketing initiatives and some of the new school marketing initiatives. Some of things I’d like to do around fan engagement is try to do concerts and some other types of things either before or after events, tie it into that so we are bringing folks from not in the area.”

At Wisconsin, Frazier was also largely involved with athletic facility development. He was a key part in raising $123 million in order to build a new student athlete performance center, a hockey and swim center as well as an indoor softball facility.

With building of the new Chessick Practice Center already taking place, Frazier is ready to continue with the development of the new Huskie athletic facilities.

“I think that we have a great basis to do some things,” Frazier said. “I think that we will do more things, obviously a facilities master plan is really the key on how I operate. Basically what that does for us it prioritizes our needs. There are needs and wants. Needs obviously we want to go there first and wants then we will fold that in based on priority structure.”

Frazier also likes to be involved in the student athlete experience.

Frazier attended and played football at the University of Alabama from 1987-1991 and was part of an SEC Championship team during his time. As an administrator, he bases the student athlete experience off the one he had at Alabama.

“From an experience standpoint and a student athlete experience standpoint…[It] really shaped the way as a former coach and as an administrator how I want the student athletes to experience,” Frazier said. “I walk [in] with high expectations of the coaches, high expectations of the staff to make sure they provide a quality student athlete experience.”

A Long Island native, Frazier is excited to call DeKalb home and is ready to start a new chapter in his life with his wife Rosa, daughters Marina, 11, and Marsella, 4, and his son Maximo, 9.

“The people, just going into the local grocery store or for me the Dunkin’ Donuts or what have you, it’s very similar [to home],” Frazier said. “There is a key family friendly element that I see, very similar to Long Island, very similar to Madison, Wis., too. Hard working folk invested into the NIU community as well as a real family friendly element so those were key components for my transition…for my next opportunity and NIU hit it on all levels.”