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ISU Interim AD Beggs might want to keep the job

Interim Athletics Director Jeri Beggs started the new job Monday, May 1.
Illinois State University
Illinois State University Interim Athletics Director Jeri Beggs.

Now that the flap over spending on donor entertainment is over, and trustees have named a permanent Illinois State University president, several interim positions need to be filled.

One of those is in the Athletics Department, where the position of athletics director became temporary after the April 2023 resignation of Kyle Brennan over nearly $19,000 spent on football tickets and a potential donor's legal troubles.

Jeri Beggs stepped in as interim AD and is indicating she might like to stay on.

“I've loved the job. I'm having conversations with president [Aondover] Tarhule about my future here at ISU. My contract ends at the end of June. So, some decisions have to be made fairly soon,” said Beggs.

Beggs said she is interested in continuing to work at ISU, though she had put in for retirement as a professor before she was asked to take the temporary post in the Athletics Department. Beggs, speaking on WGLT's Sound Ideas, said she will not be part of a search process for a new AD if the university goes in that direction.

“A couple of reasons. One is that I only want to do this for a few more years,” said Beggs. “I don't see myself here five years from now or 10 years from now. When you apply for a job, you really should have some plans for longevity. And that's not what I'm interested in right now.”

Beggs also said another reason to decline to be part of a search is that she's had a good career at ISU and would not want to end it on a sour note if she were not selected.

The goal for her or any future AD, she said, would be to continue supporting student-athletes in a climate of change.

“It's an amazing time for us with NIL [Name-Image-and-Likeness] and transfer rules and conference realignment. It's a very difficult time to manage college athletics and I think we're doing a good job here. It is crazy, the changes that have been made in the last five years,” said Beggs.

A lot of mid-major institutions like ISU are now experiencing problems recruiting and retaining athletes because of the transfer portal. Beggs said that is likely to settle down a little bit as the demographic bulge ends that was created by the pandemic-driven fifth year of eligibility for certain athletes.

“That has kind of bloated the pipeline and increased transfer portal activity,” said Beggs. “Unfortunately, or fortunately some people would say, we're never going to go back to you have to sit out a year and you can only transfer once. I think that's gone.”

Beggs, who also is NCAA board member, said it's a good thing that student-athletes have more rights.

The ability to transfer whenever an athlete wishes complicates coaches’ efforts to build cohesive teams around predictable lineups and philosophies of competition.

“The idea that we're going to bring in a freshman and he or she's going to stay for four years is just not the reality,” said Beggs. “Student-athletes are looking for Name-Image-and-Likeness [NIL] money. Student-athletes are looking for visibility that might get them professional opportunities.”

Beggs said she does not have a good feel for how well Redbird affiliates who are interested in providing NIL funding as a recruitment and retention tool are doing compared with peer institutions for other universities. ISU has its own "Empower the Nest" collective.

“I'm very proud of that collective because we're trying to get opportunities for all of our athletes, male and female," she said. "Some of the other schools in the Missouri Valley Conference only have them, for example, for men's basketball. I like that we're doing it for all student-athletes, But I really don't know how we're doing compared to other schools.”

She said Empower the Nest has created deals for men’s football, basketball, and baseball. And some for women.

“Gymnastics is a very popular one nationwide. Gymnasts are very active on social media. I think Kaitlyn Donovan has a deal with Tropical Smoothie Cafe."

Donovan is a senior from South Lyons, Michigan who specializes in vault and floor.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.