After spending more than two decades at Notre Dame and working in the athletic department since 2009, Jill Bodensteiner aspired to become the athletic director at St. Joseph’s University to put her stamp on an athletic program.
“That is why I am here,” Bodensteiner said Thursday in a news conference following her introduction as the university’s new athletic director.
Bodensteiner replaces Don DiJulia, who is retiring after 35 years on the job during two stints. His final day on the job will be May 31, and Bodensteiner will begin the next day.
Bodensteiner, 47, is a 1991 graduate of Notre Dame who worked for 12 years in the university’s general counsel’s office before moving to athletics. For the last five years, she was senior associate athletics director. Her duties included serving as sport administrator for women’s basketball, which required her to work closely with head coach Muffet McGraw, a St. Joseph’s graduate.
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“Getting those questions in the interview — “Why would you want to leave Notre Dame?” — it’s because I want to put my stamp on a place, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity here,” she said. “There is a great foundation, and we will think big.”
She added that her stamp will result from a collaborative effort.
“It won’t be just my stamp, because we will do it collectively,” Bodensteiner said.
She acknowledged having big shoes to fill.
DiJulia has done the job the last 30 years, after filling the post 1976 to 1981.
“It’s not easy to follow a legend,” Bodensteiner said of DiJulia. “But I will do my best.”
The 75-year-old DiJulia said the Hawks got the right person to replace him.
“She is well-known and well-respected and well-connected on a regional and national level, and that is really important,” DiJulia said. “People know who she is.”
St. Joseph’s president Mark C. Reed said there were more 50 applicants for the job. The school interviewed 12 candidates before choosing from among three finalists.
Bodensteiner has a varied background. Before going to Notre Dame in 1997, she worked as a lawyer in private practice in Chicago.
“Jill is really smart, and that is evident when you spend time with her,” Reed said. “She is analytic, she gets right to the chase on a number of issues, she cares deeply about the student-athlete experience.”
Her affiliation with Notre Dame was a major selling point.
“Frankly, coming from the University of Notre Dame, was a particularly attractive thing for us,” Reed said. “Notre Dame, from my perspective, and, I think, from most of our perspectives, is a school that models and practices and achieves excellence in a variety of different ways.”
Reed also liked her basketball background. So do the two Hawks’ head basketball coaches.
“I had a chance to meet Jill, and her connection with the student-athlete experience and basketball jumped at me,” men’s coach Phil Martelli said. “She is a going to be a coach’s AD. I can feel that the idea of collaboration came through loud and clear.”
Women’s coach Cindy Griffin added, “Having somebody of her background, especially women’s basketball, is a plus for our program here. But also having the national presence, not only on women’s basketball committees, but having her [be] part of our St. Joseph’s family. I am really looking forward to it, because I think we can learn a lot from her, and I think she can take us to the next step.”
Bodensteiner will be the first female athletic director at St. Joseph’s.
“First and foremost, I am an athletic director at a wonderful university in a wonderful conference,” she said. “If the fact I am a woman can help other women, that’s great.”