Northwestern University today named Mike Polisky its new athletic director, effective immediately.
Polisky, a Chicago-area native, has been the Wildcats’ deputy director of athletics for external affairs since 2010. He’s the 22nd person to lead the department in its 126-year history.
“After our search committee conducted a thorough nationwide search and identified a number of strong candidates, I appointed Mike Polisky to build on our unprecedented successes and to lead Northwestern Athletics and Recreation into a new era,” University President Morton Schapiro said in a statement. “With his long experience at Northwestern, and his integrity and wisdom, I’m confident we will continue to be a model for excellence on the playing field and in the classroom.”
“Over the last 11 years I’ve had the honor of working for the best and brightest student-athletes in college athletics, alongside the most impressive group of coaches and staff in the industry, at one of the most remarkable institutions of higher education in the world,” Polisky said.
Polisky has been responsible for leading a transformation of the Wildcats’ public-facing brand and strategy, overseeing ticket sales and service, marketing, fan experience, corporate sponsorships, media and public relations, creative services, broadcast operations and community relations, as well as Northwestern’s relationship with its media partners.
Those efforts suffered a setback last week when Evanston aldermen voted down a proposal to extend a test of permitting a limited number of pro sports events at Welch-Ryan arena.
“Mike’s deep understanding of Northwestern’s culture of hard work and excellence on behalf of our student-athletes stood out among a field of very talented candidates,” said Craig Johnson, chair of the search and senior vice president for business and finance. “We look forward to his leadership and the new heights he will take us to as a university.”
He succeeds Jim Phillips, who concluded 13 years of leadership at Northwestern in February to become commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Deputy Athletics Director Janna Blais, who guided the department during the last three months as interim vice president.
Prior to joining Northwestern, Polisky served as president and general manager of the Arena Football League’s Chicago Rush for eight seasons, where he was honored as the AFL’s 2008 Executive of the Year. He also was president of business operations for the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves.
Update 5/13/21: Polisky resigned May 12 following protests over his status as a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an NU cheerleader who claimed he dismissed her concerns and accused her of fabricating evidence. The school has named Robert Gundlach interim athletic director while a new search is conducted for a permanent replacement.