Frazier talks new role, NIU’s future


Photo courtesy of Scott Walstrom and NIU Athletics

NIU Athletic Director Sean Frazier kneels outside Huskie Stadium during the student-athlete organized ‘Unity March’ on Oct. 10. Frazier himself was a student-athlete at the University of Alabama.

By James Krause

DeKALB — NIU Athletics announced Athletic Director Sean Frazier had signed a contract extension through 2026 last Thursday, but that doesn’t mean more of the same for Frazier.

Frazier will also take responsibility for NIU Recreation and Wellness as Vice President and Director of Athletics and Recreation, pending approval from the Board of Trustees. 

In his eighth year at NIU, Frazier said the new role and family ties to DeKalb were heavy factors in his decision to stay. Previously, Frazier and NIU Athletics have adopted operations for the Convocation Center and NIU Marching Band.

“As the process with other institutions contacting me, it always goes down to ‘What is the plan for me career wise,’” Frazier said. “I received more responsibilities with recreation. First, it was the band, now it’s the recreation. From a family standpoint, me and (my wife) Rosa love it here. We’ve had kids go to both DeKalb and Sycamore school districts. This really is a good fit for us, and it’s not just about me; it’s about if this works for everybody.”

Before coming to NIU, Frazier had experience in charge of recreation departments at Clarkson University and Manhattanville College. The recreation program is held in high regard by Frazier, who said it’s a way to get kids to link their time at NIU to sports.

“It was really fun to engage the regular student population with recreation programs,” Frazier said. “Now with recreation, we are the athletics overseer of the university, and it’s important to make sure our offering in club sports, intramural sports, recreational are robust to give all of our students an experience here.”

Frazier’s original gig as AD is still full of challenges related to COVID-19, despite the return of fans and regularly scheduled sports seasons. Frazier and NIU Athletics spent two weeks preparing for a revamp of their concessions system after reports of long lines and water shortages at NIU’s home football game on Sept. 11.

Frazier said the department is still rebooting from more than a year without full capacity events, but he remains optimistic after seeing how the department handled setbacks.

“We’ve been on the bench, so to speak, in terms of interactions with our fans, students and community due to COVID-19,” Frazier said. “I see a progression. I’m not ready to say we’ve conquered all our challenges. I think we have a ways to go for it to be ‘normal.’ We did conquer some of the shortcomings as it relates to concessions. It was good to see we made a course correction.”

Frazier said he won’t know the goals of the next five years until the summer when he has a strategic planning process to examine the NIU Athletic Department. Frazier said the program’s goals will be in line with NIU President Lisa Freeman and the university.

“We’re no different than any auxiliary or college at NIU,” Frazier said. “Our goals are in lockstep with the president’s goals and university goals.”

Frazier’s role as new recreation’s head is expected to be finalized at the next Board of Trustees meeting, currently scheduled for Dec. 7.