Anthony J. Azama (pronounced Az-muh), known as a dynamic and energetic leader, enters his third year as the John M. Schael Director of Athletics at Washington University in St. Louis.
He is one of the youngest athletic directors in the University Athletic Association (UAA) and College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). Within two years, Azama’s vision and strategic plan has had an immediate impact on the student-athletes’ experience, campus and in the St. Louis Community.
Azama believes that student-athletes can be both, academically gifted and athletically talented and those attributes are not mutually exclusive. “At WashU, student-athletes can explore their intellectual aspirations while competing for something greater than themselves with others.”
During the 2018-19 season, WashU finished third in the Division III Learfield/IMG College Directors’ Cup, which is the crowning achievement in college athletics, while achieving the second highest point total ever in school history. Out of 19 sports programs, 14 made the NCAA Tournament, and nine finished in the top-five. The Bears also won eight UAA conference titles, and Women’s Cross Country captured the 2018 national championship.
In addition to athletic success, the department has experienced the highest achievements in the classroom. WashU student-athletes achieved their highest GPA at 3.5 which equaled the student body for the first time ever. The student-athlete graduation rate of 99% is the highest in the history of athletics. Not to mention graduate school and job placement rate peaked at 96% (measured within the first six months of graduation).
During his brief tenure, there has been one NCAA Woman of the Year, three NCAA Top 10 selections, 103 All-Americans, 23 Academic All-Americans, six individual National Champions, three NCAA post graduate scholarship recipients and one National Championship.
The W Club, Athletics’ Annual Fund, has had a huge impact on the department resources to enhance the student-athlete experience with an increase in members and giving. W Club fundraising over the last two years has enhanced 19 sports budgets while simultaneously establishing seven endowments including an Opportunity Fund to assist student-athletes regardless of economic status.
Several “athletic classrooms” for scholar-champions has been improved over the last two years. There has been an upgrade to the timing system and videoboard for the Millstone Pool. At Francis Olympic Field, a new artificial turf surface has been installed with a new videoboard and sound system. Bushyhead track was upgraded with an entirely new surface. The women’s golf program now has a state-of-the-art golf training center.
The expansion of partnerships both on and off campus has improved the accessibility of WashU Athletics. Starting with becoming one of the first Division III institutions to implement an app for streaming live events on Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire in 1080HD with play-by-play announcing. An expansive online store powered by Follet’s was launched to provide WashU sport specific merchandise to Alumni world-wide. In partnership with Advent, a leading collegiate design firm, WashU captured its core brand narrative. The reoccurring theme of “Uncompromised Excellence” and “Built to Impact” revealed itself in the #WhyWashU campaign interviews with former student athletes, parents, coaches and current student-athletes.
The Sumers Recreation Center continues to be a favorite for both graduate and undergraduate students. Continuing to provide a satisfying experience, 93% of undergrads have used the facility while graduate students are at 63%. Within the first two years of operations, Sumers Rec Center has had more than one million visitors.
Azama serves as a board member on the St. Louis Sports Commission. He has served as a member of the Fraternity and Sorority Life Task Force and commissioned a Task Force on the student-athlete experience, and also served as chairperson of the Athletic Administrators’ Committee for the UAA. Azama is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics (NACDA).
He brings 20 plus years of experience to WashU from stops at the Ivy League Columbia, Mid-American Conference (MAC) Miami (OH) and Florida Citrus Sports, where several collegiate bowl games are played, while graduating from Southeastern Conference (SEC) Vanderbilt.
Prior to WashU, Azama spent two years as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Operations at Columbia University in New York City. He was responsible for the strategic direction, oversight, coordination, leadership, and active participation in the revenue generation and external functions while at Columbia.
In less than a year, Azama restructured the External Operations units – Marketing & Promotions, Communications, Sponsorship, Ticketing, Memberships, Licensing, Branding, and Merchandising to create double digit growth in each of its revenue streams while taking the department through a rebranding process.
He led the rebranding of Columbia Athletics beginning with a new mission and values statement in 2016. Columbia’s “Only Here” concept was created and designed to promote the university’s extraordinary location in New York City, its unparalleled career and lifetime opportunities that the university affords its students, its superb athletics support performance program, and its elite level status as an Ivy League institution. To tell the story, he spearheaded the enhanced environmental graphics at both the Dodge Fitness Center and the Campbell Sports Center, overhauled the athletics’ website for relaunch, and negotiated a deal for a new online Lion Store partnership with Barnes & Noble.
In addition, the Lions ticket office generated its highest revenue totals ever in a fiscal year. Five of the men’s basketball team’s seven Ivy League conference games were sold out, while football season tickets increased by nearly 40 percent in 2016. Sponsorship revenue was at Columbia’s highest level since its inception over a decade ago as Dodge Fitness Center experienced a resurgence in membership sales revenue to more than $1.5 million. Licensing royalties were also at record-high levels for Columbia Athletics.
A 1998 cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, Azama was a three-year letterwinner on the Commodore football team and received his bachelor’s degree in human and organizational development. In 2015, he received his master’s degree in business administration from Miami.
Updated August 1, 2019