UNI Panthers

UNI selling its 'unique' product with an ambitious strategic plan

Boosting the athletics department is the goal

CEDAR RAPIDS — Leave it to a wrestling coach to get straight to the point.

Northern Iowa’s “Panther Caravan” made a stop here Monday afternoon at the Marriott, with administrators and coaches greeting fans, boosting boosters and, maybe, picking up a few new donors.

That’s all part of athletics director David Harris strategic plan, a vision he has been touting to groups around campus and holding forums with fans to get feedback on where UNI wants to go and how it’s going to get there.

It’s takes money — and lots of it — to run a successful athletics department these days.

“The more that we can get, the more that we can do,” UNI wrestling coach Doug Schwab said.

Harris’ plan is more than that, of course, but selling more tickets, getting more exposure and raising more money are big parts of his “ambitious” goals.

“We’re really trying to set the future for UNI athletics with our strategic plan,” he said. “We wanted to have goals that would really inform our decisions as we move forward.”

The plan still is taking shape, but will include some new or improved facilities and a pathway for all programs to improve.

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“The goals are significant,” Harris said. “We hope to be able to introduce a final product sometime later this summer or the beginning of the fall.”

His coaching staff is excited about what the future could hold in Cedar Falls.

“David’s vision is not for women’s basketball, men’s basketball, football,” women’s basketball coach Tanya Warren said. “It’s for everybody and that’s what excites me.”

Schwab said it’s “not like you can be in silos.

“We have to rise the tide for everyone.”

Harris said this past school year has been a huge success on the fields and courts. The football team made the FCS playoffs, the volleyball team played in the NCAA tournament, the women’s basketball team was in the WNIT and the wrestling team finished second in its first Big 12 tournament.

“Now it’s about how can you build on it, how can you make it better in the future,” he said.

And that’s all part of UNI’s strategic plan.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Harris said. “We need more people who are invested, who are invested with their time, with their finances and coming to our events.”

That’s why he’s been so adamant about talking with students, fans and others around campus. He wants people to understand the plan and be invested in it.

“We encourage them and challenge them to step up in whatever way is possible for them,” he said, adding not everybody can be a big booster, but can maybe come to more games than in the past.

Football coach Mark Farley said it’s a good time to be a Panther.

“The greatest thing is we’re so unique at UNI,” he said. “We’re different from Iowa and Iowa State. We’re not even close to them.

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“We’re a unique product that gives a unique set of people an opportunity — whether it’s in the school of business or the school of football. We’ve got our own niche.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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