If you were patronizing any of Macomb’s businesses this past Monday, you may have gotten a glimpse of the blur that was “Tanney on Tour.”
Yesterday, Matt Tanney, the interim director of Western Illinois Athletics, was spotted all over the fair city that is Western Illinois University’s home, as he traveled to area businesses to give a special “THANKS!” to ALL of Leatherneck Athletics’ corporate partnership sponsors.
The whirlwind tour (check out all of the photos at http://bit.ly/TanneyonTour) demonstrates Matt’s inspirational motivation.
Other achievements, too, here at WIU demonstrate his drive: Matt (who was named the interim director of Western Illinois Athletics in May 2015) was honored with WIU’s Division of Student Services “Administrative Employee of the Year” in May 2014, and a Western Illinois Athletics’ press release also notes he has presented nationally at the NCAA Regional Rules conference. Additionally, he teaches undergraduate courses here at WIU, as well as serves as a guest lecturer at several colleges. He will also teach a sports law class in the WIU graduate program this fall.
As the subject of the July installment of the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Employee Spotlight feature, Matt was kind enough to take some time out of his hectic schedule to answer some questions about his job here at Western. Thanks, Matt!
Q. Tell me a bit about your background… How did you wind up working at WIU?
Matt: I grew up in an athletically minded family that also valued the pursuit of high academic achievement. My father had a successful career as a high school football coach, and my two younger brothers are presently in the NFL (Mitch works for the Denver Broncos, and Alex is a quarterback for the Tennessee Titans). So, athletics has always been a part of my life that’s well complemented my academic interests. I was a collegiate student athlete at the NCAA Division III level and earned my undergraduate and law degrees from Wabash College and the Robert H. McKinney School of Law, respectively.
While in law school, I worked at the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which opened some doors in the athletics industry. I worked in the athletics department at The Ohio State University after law school, and eventually the University of Dayton and the University of Oklahoma. I joined the Leathernecks in July 2012 as the associate director of WIU Athletics. I’m originally from the Bloomington-Normal area, so it’s been a pleasure to return closer to friends and family in Central Illinois.
Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you as the interim director of Athletics?
Matt: There’s no such thing as a “typical day” in the office, which is great. It’s a diverse, well-rounded experience. I’m constantly exploring new avenues to generate additional revenue for the department, developing strategies on financial planning and facilities initiatives, and hiring new coaches and staff. The reality is division I intercollegiate athletics is a fast-paced environment, and if you’re not nimble on the job, you’ll fail.
Q. What are some of the best aspects of your job?
Matt: I started working in college athletics because of the student-athletes. I often say that if you’re not working toward the best interests of the student-athletes, then you’re in the wrong business. The most rewarding moments of the job aren’t always the wins on the court or field—they are often the less publicized stories… for example, the student-athlete who gets accepted into his or her first choice of graduate school, or knowing that athletics provided the access and opportunity for a first-generation college student to obtain his or her degree.
Q. What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?
Matt: The athletics department is not immune to the budgetary challenges facing the university and the state of Illinois, so I’m always striving to identify ways we can become more efficient in our financial operations.
Q. Tell me a little about your favorite activities outside of your job (e.g., hobbies, family or friend activities, etc.)
Matt: I’m blessed with an amazing wife and twin daughters, so I spend as much time with them as possible.
Q. What is your favorite quote?
Matt: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” — F.Scott Fitzgerald