KINGSTON, R.I. -- The University of Rhode Island and Director of Athletics Thorr D. Bjorn have agreed to a new three-year contract that will keep him in his current position through June 30, 2015. David M. Dooley, URI President, made the announcement today.
“I am delighted that Thorr Bjorn will continue his excellent work as Director of Athletics at the University of Rhode Island,” said David M. Dooley, URI President. “He is highly regarded within the Atlantic 10 and elsewhere, and provides outstanding leadership and vision for our programs in athletics. Moreover, Thorr is a very valuable member of the URI senior leadership team. I look forward to working with him into the future.”
Since becoming the school’s 11th Director of Athletics in July, 2007, Bjorn has worked tirelessly to put his stamp on the culture of URI Athletics. In October, 2011, Bjorn helped lay the foundation for future success with the commissioning of the FY 2011-FY 2016 Strategic Plan & Goals. The exhaustive self-evaluation project and study of the athletics department yielded a living, breathing document with long-term strategies designed to take Rhody Athletics to the next level.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with so many great student-athletes, coaches and staff at the University of Rhode Island,” Bjorn said. “Since my first day on campus, and every day since, it has been evident to me that the URI is a very special place. The athletics department is a truly integrated part of campus and our goal is to utilize our teams and student-athletes success to help promote and market all the wonderful things that are happing on campus.”
During his tenure in Kingston, Bjorn has rebuilt and reenergized the external revenue efforts at Rhode Island to levels never previously achieved. From 2007-2011, fundraising and development achieved record levels. During that time span, total philanthropic donations from FY 2007-11 reached $8.2 million dollars.
He helped cultivate the first-ever $1 million dollar gift in Rhody athletics history in November, 2007. That gift helped to transform Bill Beck Field - home of the highly successful URI baseball program - into one of the top facilities in the Northeast. Upgrades included a new synthetic surface installed in the infield, a sod and sprinkler system in the outfield, and an indoor training facility that can be used by the baseball and softball teams.
He also secured the funding for the Student-Athlete Development Center, which is set for completion in the fall of 2012. The SADC is the most aggressive undertaking by URI Athletics in almost a decade, providing state-of-the-art facilities necessary in the areas of strength & conditioning, sports medicine, and academic support for all varsity student-athletes.
“We are going to continue the work we have currently in place as it relates to facility upgrades, especially the Student-Athlete Development Center,” Bjorn added. “This much-needed project is going to begin the transformation for all of our student-athletes and coaches. We will continue to enhance our facilities - based upon need and donor interest - which will help us to recruit and compete with the best in the Atlantic 10 and beyond.”
External revenue through corporate sponsorship has also reached unprecedented heights under Bjorn. In 2008, using his "Everybody is a Marketer" philosophy, he helped create a unique partnership and business model between the athletics department and the Thomas M. Ryan Center. Through the cultivation of corporate sponsorships and investment, the business development model helped total revenue to increase 115% over the last three years - from $363,400 in FY 2007 to over $780,000 in FY 11.
URI student-athletes have excelled in the classroom during Bjorn’s tenure. In 2009-10, seven Rhody teams earned NCAA Public Recognition Awards with perfect 1,000 Academic Progress Rate scores. Earlier this month, 97 student-athletes were named to the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll for achieving a 3.5 grade-point average or better during the 2011 fall semester.
Bjorn is an influential member of several national and Atlantic 10 Conference committees. At present, he is a member of the NCAA Division I Women’s Rowing Committee and is on the Executive Committee of the Football Championship Series (FCS) Athletic Directors Association.
With the Atlantic 10, Bjorn is the Co-Chair of the league’s men’s basketball committee, while serving as a member of the A-10’s television, membership, and administrative committees. In 2009, he chaired the Atlantic 10 scheduling policy committee.
“Thorr has been a tremendously strong administrator for Rhode Island and a valued leader in the conference,” Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said. “His vision, decision making and willingness to serve on A-10 committees has contributed to the success of the league.”
“I am looking forward to continuing leading an athletics department made up of some of the best student-athletes, coaches, and committed support personnel as we win conference championships and compete in NCAA Championships,” Bjorn stated. “As President Dooley has many times, his goal is for our student athletes to leave with a diploma in one hand and a championship ring on the other. I share his goal and look forward to putting that statement of success to the test each and every day.”