Jim Schmidt worked in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Illinois at Chicago for 36 years, serving as Athletics Director for 22. Schmidt was the longest-serving athletic director in the Horizon League.
Schmidt constructed a department that has exceled on a championship level, not only within the conference, but also on the regional and national scenes. Under his direction, UIC advanced to NCAA postseason competition 49 times, while amassing a total of 80 conference championships. In the 15 years before Schmidt’s tenure that UIC was an NCAA Division I school, the Flames had just nine NCAA postseasons and 11 conference titles.
Under Schmidt’s leadership, UIC was twice awarded the Horizon League’s James J. McCafferty Trophy — in 2000 and 2007. The honor is given to the most successful all-around athletic program in the Horizon League each season. In addition, the first NCAA postseason bids for the men’s basketball (1998), women’s tennis (1999), men’s soccer (1999) and baseball (2003) programs all occurred under his supervision. The women’s tennis program established itself as a dynasty by winning an unprecedented 16 consecutive conference championships and making 14-straight NCAA Tournament appearances through 2013.
In 2015, Schmidt was selected as the 2014–15 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. He was one of only 28 leaders from across the country to be recognized, and one of four from Division I-AAA.
Schmidt was instrumental in expanding UIC’s athletic offerings, adding two programs in the last seven years: women’s golf in 2010 and women’s soccer in 2012. Not only did UIC raise its sights in competition across all 20 athletic programs, but the Flames also accomplished tremendous feats in the classroom and community. During the 2016 fall semester, UIC’s 349 student-athletes posted a collective grade-point average for the term of 3.12 — the highest ever.
The Flames’ fundraising efforts under Schmidt resulted in new and improved facilities, including new team rooms for all sports, Curtis Granderson Stadium for baseball, and tennis courts and soccer fields. He also spearheaded $7 million in improvements and upgrades to the UIC Pavilion, home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. In addition, UIC opened the Flames Athletic Center, the day -to-day hub of the department, in 1997.
Schmidt first arrived at UIC in 1982, when he was the baseball pitching coach. From 1983 –86, Schmidt was an assistant athletic director. He assumed the role of an associate athletic director in 1987 and he served in that post until 1995, when he was named interim athletic director following the retirement of friend and mentor Tom Russo.
Schmidt graduated from Western Illinois University in 1981 with a degree in sports management. He and his wife, Mary, live in Naperville. They have a son, Bill, and daughter, Eva.