By John Bohnenkamp
MACOMB, Ill. —
Paul Bubb remembered a 1997 job interview to be an athletic director, and he was asked if there would be any job he would leave for in the future.
There was one place Bubb said he would go, and that would be if he had the chance to be Western Illinois University’s athletic director.
Twenty-five years later, Bubb has that chance.
Bubb was named WIU’s new director of intercollegiate athletics on Wednesday, taking over at a place he knows well.
“I just have a connection here,” Bubb said, and that connection is deep.
Bubb grew up in Ipava, Ill., which is 23 miles from WIU’s Macomb campus. He attended former coach Brodie Westen’s football camps at the school, and worked at Jack Margenthaler’s basketball camps. Bubb has his master’s degree in sports management from WIU.
“It’s always been a home for me,” Bubb said. “My master’s degree in sports management from here has served me well. And I kind of want to repay that, if I can. I’m in a position now where I can do that.”
Bubb has been WIU’s executive director of development since 2018, so he understands the fundraising side of college sports. The Leathernecks play football at the FCS level in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and all other NCAA Division I sports in the Summit League, facing schools with greater financial resources and newer facilities.
Still, Bubb said, WIU can compete with those programs.
“Unless you’re a Power-5 school, financial concerns are there with any college program,” Bubb said. “I think the Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference, it’s very challenging when you look at the resources available to (other schools). But we’ve competed against them before. We’ve won championships in this league. It’s not an impossible thing to do.
“I know we need to get things going back in a positive direction. Other schools have the resources, and what we need to do is develop our own resources.”
Bubb has more than 30 years of experience in athletics administration and advancement. His resumé includes:
• Associate athletic director for development and director for at Cal Poly Pomona
• Asociate athletic director for external affairs at Murray State University
• Director of athletics, senior associate athletic director and assistant athletic director for development at Idaho State University.
• Interim director of athletics and senior associate director of athletics at the University of Maine
• Assistant director of the Bronco Athletic Association at Boise State University
• Director of athletics, associate athletic director and director of athletic development at Cal State Northridge.
• Director of athletic development at Drake
• Director of athletic development at Southern Illinois University
• Director of alumni and parent programs at Monmouth College.
The key now, Bubb said, is rebuilding relationships in areas beyond Macomb.
“It includes getting into communities we serve, from the Quad Cities to Peoria to Springfield to Quincy,” he said. “This is western Illinois, and we need a strong presence in the area.
“We definitely need fan support out here. We need people at the games. We need people joining the Leatherneck Club. We need to reestablish some pride in the program. The past two years have been tough for anybody in any athletic program around the country, as COVID has taken its toll. But we need to get back to where we were prior to COVID, and back to the days when I watched games at Western Hall with 2,500, 3,000 people in there, sitting at football games with 8,000-10,000 people. We have got to get involved in getting people back here, and we’ve got to make connections with them.”