UofM Athletics Director Tom Bowen speaks to DNA members at the Memphis Chamber

UofM Athletics Director Tom Bowen speaks to DNA members at the Memphis Chamber

The monthly DNA meeting started off on a fun note at the Memphis Chamber, with free Nike hats in Tiger blue! It only got better from there, as Tom Bowen was our September speaker.

Tom Bowen took over as Athletic Director for the University of Memphis in 2012. "Memphis was an amazing moment for me," recalls Bowen, referring to the buzz around Memphis potentially joining the Big East at the time of his hire (ultimately UofM joined the American Athletic Conference).

Since taking the helm of the Athletic Department, Bowen has led Tiger athletics to success both on and off the field. In 2014, the football program won its first conference championship in more than 40 years. Men's basketball has advanced to the NCAA tournament third round twice. Tennis and golf have also seen national success.

Off the field (or court), Bowen's 377 Tiger athletes are showing strong academic achievement. The UofM has a 92% graduation rate for student athletes. The athletic program has 12 consecutive trimesters of a cumulative 3.0 GPA for athletes. There are dozens of freshman on the Dean's list and 62 athletes with a 4.0 GPA. "This is a school that cares about the student athlete," says Bowen. In addition to impressive academic numbers, last year athletes logged 2,200 community service hours!

In reference to the secret of his success, Bowen discussed hiring great talent. "I am the most unimportant person by myself. I hire great people." He also discussed the importance of a "culture of greatness and a standard of excellence" that has taken years to build. "We teach our athletes not to wait for the storm to pass, but to learn to dance in the rain," says Bowen ,"and now, the future is unstoppable. My student athletes want to be champions. They fear no one. We're ready to be great."

This year will be the most exciting year yet, predicts Bowen. It's not just the exciting new football and basketball coaches that will help drive success. Bowen also expects greatness in volleyball, softball, baseball, cross country, and track & field, among others. "We had a pole vaulter in the Rio Olympics….the recruiting class in football is ranked in the top 20. We recruited the #4 kicker in the country. This year could be extraordinary."

The program is also building a new athletic facility on Park Avenue, in response to a comprehensive 2012 assessment of facilities and a $40M capital campaign Bowen led. Half of the facility will be for the community, including a tribute to Tiger basketball history. "We need to better articulate the championships, the great seasons, the great games," says Bowen. The second half will be a state-of-the-art training center.

On whether the UofM will be invited to join the Big 12 this year, Bowen is feeling optimistic. Joining the Big 12 - one of the Power Five conferences - would be a big boost for the University. Even Justin Timberlake tweeted support for Memphis' bid to his 56M followers. Ultimately, Bowen expects a decision to be made Oct 18.

"The ceiling has been lifted," boasts Bowen. "This is the best time to be a Tiger. These are the days when we become very good at what we do."