Dr. Sheahon Zenger
As Illinois State's Director of Athletics, Dr. Sheahon Zenger (pronounced SHAY-un) has returned Redbird Athletics to its place of prominence in the Missouri Valley Conference. By capturing the second Valley All-Sports Trophy in the last three years, Zenger's tenure at Illinois State culminated in his fifth year leading the department with seven league titles during the 2009-10 season.
Fundraising is on the rise, with a 65 percent growth in Weisbecker Scholarship Fund memberships since his arrival. Capital projects are also booming, as the Illinois State Baseball Stadium at Duffy Bass Field was officially dedicated in May 2009 to culminate the completion of the $3.5 million project. In addition to baseball, funding for the Redbird Arena locker room improvements has also been secured.
With experiences as a teacher, coach, fundraiser and administrator, Zenger brought a plan to Illinois State, and with the help of the head coaches and administrative staff, personalized that strategic plan for Redbird Athletics.
As a result, the athletics department has seen record-high grade-point averages (GPA) in each of the last four years, including a school-best, department-wide 3.13 GPA in fall 2009. Redbird student-athletes have carried at least a 3.0 GPA in six of the last seven semesters. ISU student-athletes have also contributed more than 2,000 hours of community service in each of the last five years, including 3,500 hours during the 2009-10 athletic season.
In addition to Valley All-Sports titles in 2008 and 2010, over the last three years Zenger has led the department to 16 top-five finishes in its 17 Valley sports - the highest percentage of top-five finishers in league history.
Since Zenger's arrival at ISU, the department secured a five-year contract with Nike, the world's leading supplier in athletic apparel and equipment, and has been bombarding the Central Illinois region with a campaign centered on the award-winning marketing campaign "Spread the Red."
Zenger has also witnessed record-setting attendance figures in football, men's basketball and women's basketball, while having 17 Redbird teams advance to postseason play.
From 2002-05, prior to joining Illinois State, Zenger was the associate athletics director for development at Kansas State.
Zenger helped KSU initiate important development strategies as assistant athletics director for major gifts in 2001-02. He accepted that post after a year in the KSU College of Business, raising more than $2 million and restructuring its development program with research and planning.
All that administrative and fund-raising experience came as an outgrowth of his passion for coaching - his career goal starting at age 9.
Zenger's football coaching career began in 1987 at Manhattan (Kan.) High School, a few months before he received his bachelor's degree in English and secondary education from Kansas State. Zenger's first college football coaching job came the following year at Drake, before he returned to his alma mater in 1989.
At age 23, Zenger was one of the nation's youngest full-time football staff members when he started at Kansas State, serving on head coach Bill Snyder's staff in key roles as assistant recruiting coordinator and director of football operations. Zenger completed his master's degree in journalism and mass communication (1992) while helping Snyder transform a Wildcat football program that had struggled for decades, into one of college football's elite. That football success served as a foundation for Kansas State's rise to Big 12 Conference prominence across the board.
From 1993-95, Zenger served the coaching profession as editor of American Football Quarterly, a magazine for coaches. As he completed his studies for a Ph.D. in educational policy and leadership at Kansas (1996), he contributed communications and special projects support to the office of the executive vice-chancellor, while strengthening his understanding of university leadership at the highest levels.
After earning his doctorate, Zenger's next challenge was as recruiting coordinator for the brand new NCAA Division I football program at the University of South Florida in 1996. A year later, he moved to the University of Wyoming football staff as recruiting coordinator and rose to assistant head coach by 1998, which was one of his personal crowning moments of his career.
A published author and researcher, Zenger served for three years with the NCAA Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement and he is on his second year of a three-term with two separate NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Division committees. He serves as the Missouri Valley Football Conference Representative to the NCAA FCS Football Committee and to the Central Regional Advisory Committee to the NCAA FCS Committee, while also being a member of the Executive Committee of NACDA's Division I FCS Athletic Directors Association.
Zenger is also a member of many professional and university organizations, including the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the National Association of Athletic Development Directors, that American Football Coaches Association and the Association for the Study of Higher Education.
The Hays, Kan., native is married to the former Pam McAnarney. The couple has three children: Luke, Abby and Jake.