In his ninth year at the helm of the Northern Illinois University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, Sean T. Frazier has guided the Huskies to historic milestones competitively, academically and socially, cemented his status as both a national and community leader on diversity and inclusion and led successful fundraising efforts that have transformed the student-athlete experience at NIU.
With the NIU Convocation Center, the Huskie Marching Band, and most recently, NIU Recreation, added to the NIU Athletics family, Frazier’s influence and forward-thinking leadership extends throughout the campus and community.
The passage of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation at the state and NCAA levels, the proposed expansion of the College Football Playoff and shifting conference affiliations, added to the significant challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, have seen Frazier take the lead on a local, conference and national level, and continue to adapt to change while setting NIU firmly on a path forward now and for the future.
After COVID-19 shut down college athletics in March 2020, Frazier directed the Huskies through a school year and competition season unlike any other, with a focus on protecting the health of NIU student-athletes while providing them with opportunities to compete. Through the pandemic and despite moving to a completely virtual format, NIU’s two premiere fundraising events – Huskies Invest and the Virtual Victor E. Bash – enjoyed record-setting years.22288
Two NIU teams enjoyed extraordinary success through the extraordinary circumstances of 2020-21 as the Huskie women’s cross country and women’s indoor track and field teams claimed the first Mid-American Conference Championships in school history for those programs. Their wins were the ninth and 10th MAC Championships won by Huskie teams during Frazier’s tenure at NIU, the most MAC titles won under the leadership of any athletic administration in school history. The Huskies also saw men’s and women’s golf, men’s tennis and gymnastics narrowly miss adding to the championships list with second-place MAC finishes last year.
Huskie football has claimed two MAC titles (2014, 2018) and entered 2021 as the winningest FBS team in the state of Illinois and in the MAC over the last 10 years. Men’s and women’s basketball have both broken postseason droughts under Frazier, with men’s basketball making its first postseason appearance in 20 years in 2016, while the women’s team earned a bid to the WNIT Tournament in 2017. Men’s basketball claimed the MAC West Division title in 2020 before COVID cancelled the MAC Tournament, and volleyball (2015, 2016), gymnastics (2019) and men’s tennis (2014, 2015) have all collected MAC Championship trophies since Frazier’s arrival in 2013.
NIU also has produced student-athletes across the sports spectrum who have achieved at the highest levels both athletically and academically during Frazier’s tenure. Quarterback Jordan Lynch finished third in voting for the 2013 Heisman Trophy and football’s Max Scharping was a finalist for the National Football Foundation’s William V. Campbell Trophy, the “Academic Heisman” in 2018. Women’s track and field (Ashley Tutt) and wrestling (Brit Wilson) produced NIU’s most recent All-Americans, while wrestler Mason Kauffman made history in 2021 as the first Huskie to earn the NCAA’s Elite 90 Award, as the top student-athlete participating in the NCAA Championship.
Kauffman and softball’s Katie Keller became the 11th and 12th Huskies to earn Academic All-America recognition from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) since 2013-14, with student-athletes from seven different sports recognized. The NIU gymnastics team finished the 2020-21 school year as the top academic team in women’s gymnastics across all NCAA divisions.
The emphasis on academic excellence has extended throughout the department. NIU student-athletes finished the 2020-21 academic year with a school record cumulative GPA of 3.35, with 15 teams recording a team GPA above 3.0. Every NIU sports program surpassed the Academic Progress Rate for the 13th straight year, and nearly 90 percent of student-athletes who have entered NIU over the last seven years have earned their degrees according to the latest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figures.
In terms of fundraising, the Huskie Athletic Fund (HAF), the official fundraising arm of NIU Athletics, has continued to raise the bar under Frazier, averaging nearly $2.5 million in total donations over the past eight years. In four years, Huskies Invest: A Week of Giving has generated more than $1.625 million; the 2021 “Virtual” Victor E. Bash resulted in a record $204,100 raised in support of NIU student-athletes. That brought the all-time total for that event – initiated in 2015-16 as the in-person Victor E. Ball – to almost $840,000.
The “Campaign to Sustain,” a major fundraising initiative focused on ensuring NIU Athletics’ ability to carry on its rich tradition while lifting future Huskies to new heights and instilling NIU 45676alumni and the campus community with pride, continues to produce results. As of August 2021, the Campaign, which includes opportunities to support Cost of Attendance scholarships and capital projects, has raised over $2.5 million in support of Huskie student-athletes and sports programs.
Three of those capital projects were brought to completion in 2018-19. The Northwestern Medicine Sport Performance Center and the Phi Sigma Kappa Alumni Association of NIU Nutrition Center, dedicated in June and completely donor-funded, directly impacts NIU’s 400 student-athletes in 17 sports programs, in the critical areas of fitness, mental health and wellness, and nutrition. The renovation of the Dave and Linda Nelson Suite in the NIU Convocation Center resulted in a complete modernization of the space, incorporating many new amenities, and providing Huskie fans with a true game atmosphere inside a high-level premium area.
NIU also has signed and/or renegotiated multiple contracts resulting in increased revenues for Huskie Athletics over the last seven years. Learfield, NIU’s multimedia and sponsorship partner, met its revenue goals for the first time in 2017-18, while deals with adidas, Sodexo and Learfield Licensing have all paid dividends for the Huskies. The NIU Convocation Center, which became a part of Intercollegiate Athletics in 2013, has attracted popular acts like Thomas Rhett, Brad Paisley, Casting Crowns, Second City, WWE Live and Monster Trucks since Frazier’s arrival, and served as a COVID-19 vaccination hub in 2021. Prior to the pandemic, as many as 250,000 people annually walked through the doors of the Convocation Center to attend NIU Athletics events, NIU and high school graduations, job and career fairs, cheerleading, IHSA and IESA competitions and more.
Under Frazier, the Huskies have claimed two honors unprecedented in the school’s history. In May 2017, NIU won the Mid-American Conference’s Fred Jacoby Trophy, presented to the top women’s athletic program in the MAC, for the first time. In 2016, NIU received the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA) Diversity and Inclusion Award, which recognized and celebrated the initiatives, policies and practices of NIU in embracing diversity and inclusion. For Frazier, whose roots in the topic of racial relations and diversity run deep, the award was especially significant. In 2014, he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award for his leadership of MOAA.
Throughout his time at NIU, Frazier has worked to engage the campus and local communities, expand the Huskies' fan base and connect with alumni, whether strengthening the Huskies’ foothold in Chicagoland by bringing a home football game to the city where more than 120,000 living alumni reside, attending meetings with local leaders on topics of social justice, or instituting the Huskie Fan Advisory Board to seek ideas and opinions on how to improve the fan experience.
Frazier led the charge as NIU Athletics successfully executed a number of landmark events, including the 2016 Huskie Chi-Town Showdown football game versus Toledo at Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, and prior to that, the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships at Rich Harvest Farms, “the Home of the Huskies” in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
Sean Frazier at S-A RallySince arriving at NIU, he has assumed a leadership role on campus, serving on multiple committees, including as a co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (PDF) in 2014. In 2017, he began co-teaching a course in college athletics in NIU’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
Amidst renewed calls for social justice and diversity in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy in May 2020, Frazier served as co-chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group of the LEAD1 Association, which represents the athletic directors of the 130 schools of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). In January 2021, the working group released a white paper which detailed recommendations on how to create more diverse senior leadership among FBS schools. Frazier was also recognized as part of Sports Business Journal’s inaugural “ALL IN: Leaders in Diversity and Inclusive Hiring” in March 2021 for his track record of advancing diversity and inclusivity in recruiting, retaining and promoting women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Since his arrival at NIU, Frazier has been firmly committed to Huskie Athletics' future. In October 2014, Frazier presented the NIU Athletics Facilities Master Plan (PDF), the first facilities master plan for the department since 1991. During his tenure at NIU, completed facility projects include installation of a new football turf field; the acquisition of on-campus indoor tennis practice courts; new and improved locker rooms for multiple teams; a new basketball court and video boards in the Convocation Center. With the renovation of the Dave and Linda Nelson Suite and the opening of the Phi Sigma Kappa Alumni Association of NIU Nutrition Center and the Northwestern Medicine Sports Performance Center in 2019, new projects are rising to the forefront as Frazier continues to push the department forward.
Additions to the game-day experience introduced since Frazier’s arrival include "The Yard", the official pregame tailgate area for NIU football. Inside Huskie Stadium, fans can enjoy climate-controlled comfort, food and more in the Coaches Club, while the area in the south end zone was transformed into Fatty’s Touchdown Village, a field level party area. In the Convocation Center, men’s basketball courtside seats now include the opportunity to enjoy dinner, an amenity that has contributed to five consecutive years of sell-outs for that premium location.
Work has begun on the third Strategic Plan document of Frazier’s NIU tenure. The first plan was introduced in May 2015, and the second was unveiled in Fall of 2019. Each provides a blueprint with comprehensive goals to ensure the continuing success of Huskie Athletics while upholding the core values and commitment to the department’s mission.
<i>Meet NIU dignitaries like Athletic Director Sean Frazier and Head Women's Basketball Coach Lisa Carlsen at the 2016 Huskie Summer Circuit.</i>
Frazier and his team have hired 11 new head coaches in 10 different sports since July 2013, including men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno, who came on board in March 2021. He brought Huskie alum Thomas Hammock back to DeKalb to lead the NIU football program in January 2019, hired women’s basketball head coach Lisa Carlsen in June 2015, and has hired new leaders for the NIU women’s cross country, women’s tennis, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer and baseball teams.
The Long Island, N.Y. native made football scheduling a top priority, signing home-and-home football agreements with San Diego State, BYU, Utah, Maryland, Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Boston College and South Florida. Boston College’s appearance at Huskie Stadium to open the 2017 season was the first by an ACC team since 2003 and NIU welcomed Utah, the first Pac 12 team to play on the Huskies’ home turf, on Sept. 8, 2018. Michigan and Georgia Tech are both on the NIU schedule in 2021, with future games inked with Notre Dame and Iowa.
Frazier is an active member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), a former member of that organization’s Executive Committee and a past president of MOAA. In 2021, he joined the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee College Sports Sustainability Think Tank which convened leaders from across the collegiate, Olympic and Paralympic landscape. He has written numerous papers, presented on topics of diversity, leadership and hiring at national meetings and served on many NCAA committees.
University of Wisconsin (2007-2013)
A former football student-athlete at the University of Alabama, Frazier has 25 years of overall experience as a director of athletics at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels, as an administrator at two Division I universities, as a coach and as a student-athlete. Prior to NIU, Frazier spent six years in senior leadership roles at the University of Wisconsin and was promoted to deputy director of athletics in 2011, Frazier's duties grew to include managing all day-to-day internal and external operations for Badger Athletics and serving as UW's Deputy AD and Chief of Staff to Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez.
Frazier oversaw all fundraising and advancement activities at UW, including the annual fund, major gifts, suites and club seats, endowments, multimedia rights, ticket operations and alumni affairs. During his tenure at Wisconsin, he served as the administrator for three revenue-producing sports (football, men's basketball and men's ice hockey), providing direct support to the football program that won three consecutive Big Ten Conference Championships. Along with three Rose Bowl appearances. Frazier also served as Chair of the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Committee in 2011.
Frazier played a lead role in raising $123 million for multiple capital projects at UW, including a $31 million hockey/swim facility, an $86 million student-athlete performance center and a $3.5 million softball indoor practice facility.
Merrimack College, Clarkson University, Manhattanville College (1999-2007)
Prior to Wisconsin, Frazier served as Director of Athletics at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., was the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. and led the athletics and recreation department at Division III Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. His accomplishments in eight years as an athletic director ranged from negotiating television agreements, establishing departmental policies and procedures, revamping logos and branding, overseeing facility enhancements, increasing revenue streams by creating fundraising groups, adding sports programs and cultivating successful sports programs.
Coach and AdministratorFrazier Family Holiday Photo 2020
Frazier began his administrative career at the University of Maine as an assistant football coach in 1995 and was soon tabbed as the athletic department's multicultural affairs liaison, where he created programs aimed at fostering diversity. He was named assistant to the athletic director in 1996 and became an assistant athletic director in 1998. In that role, he provided administrative support to Maine's 1999 National Championship men's ice hockey team.
A Long Island, N.Y. native, he played four years of college football at the University of Alabama from 1987-91 and was a member of the 1989 SEC Championship team. He has written numerous papers, presented on topics of diversity, leadership and hiring at national meetings and served on many NCAA committees.
Frazier earned his bachelor's degree in communications from Alabama, and has a master's degree in higher education/educational leadership from the University of Maine. He earned a second master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is pursuing a doctorate in the same discipline.
He and his wife, Rosa, an accomplished lawyer and former law professor, have three children, daughters Marina and Marcella, and son Maximo.
Has the “Moment” Become a Sustainable Movement?
Social and cultural change found unprecedented momentum in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in May 2020. This session will explore the progress that has been made and the work that is left to be done making the sports industry more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
Moderator: Diahann Billings-Burford, CEO, RISE