|Position:||Director of Athletics|
In July 2007, Thorr Bjorn became the 11th Director of Athletics in University of Rhode Island history. Since that day, he has worked tirelessly to instill a new championship culture in Kingston.
"We want to be champions in the three most important areas: in competition, in the classroom, and in the community," Bjorn said. "Our athletics department is wholly committed to making the necessary changes in order to achieve a true winning attitude."
In competition, Rhode Island's 2009-10 athletics resume was a strong one: another Atlantic 10 championship for the rowing program; a 26-win season and a trip to NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden for the men's basketball team; a third consecutive 30-win season for the baseball program; and the first trip to the postseason for Rhody's softball program in almost a decade.
The rowing team has won four Atlantic 10 championships under Bjorn's tenure, while men's track and field has tallied three A-10 victories. In addition the rowing team earned their first bid to the NCAA Championship in the 2012-13 season.
Off the fields of play, under Bjorn's guidance, athletics fundraising has reached new heights.
During the 2010 fiscal year, URI Athletics received more than $1.98 million in donations and outright gifts. This marks a 13% increase from last year and nearly a 50% increase since Bjorn's arrival on the Kingston campus.
Recent contracts with Adidas, Coke and Nelligan Sports Marketing were personally negotiated by Bjorn.
Improving facilities has been a priority over his tenure, securing a total of $10 million from external and internal sources for facility enhancements. These projects include $500,000 for construction of eight new varsity tennis courts, $300,000 for tennis pavilion, $500,000 for new indoor batting barn used by baseball and softball, $1 million for Meade Stadium bleachers and press box renovation, $1.3 million for new baseball playing surface (FieldTurf), $1 million of resurfacing indoor track with state-of-the-art Mondo surface, soccer practice facility, $250,000 to renovate men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms, $200,000 to renovate volleyball and women’s soccer locker rooms, $100,000 for men’s and women’s basketball office renovations and $4.2 million for new 8,000 sq ft weight room as well as 5,000 sq ft. for academic support center and full athletic training room renovation, the Ryan Family Student-Athlete Complex.
In the classroom, over 500 Rhode Island student-athletes have earned a 3.5 grade-point average or better and were named to the Atlantic 10 Commissioners Honor Roll. Shayna Daugherty (women's track & field) and Matt Rae (football) earned ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District honors.
"It is a true point of pride to have so many of our student-athletes being honored for their academic achievements," said Bjorn. "To have so many of our student-athletes performing on and off the field of competition is a tribute to the hard work of so many involved with Rhode Island Athletics."
Many of the Rams' athletic programs and student-athletes have made an impact in the community. Many participated in the annual Reading Week promotion - a department-wide venture which places student-athletes and coaches in local elementary schools in April to read and interact with the students. The volleyball team took part in a Habitat for Humanity activity, while the baseball team participated in the Rhode Island Autism Project walk during the fall. Former head coach Joe Trainer and the football program organized a bone marrow drive during the spring.
Additionally, URI athletics sponsored its four annual "Pink Out" during a nationally televised men's basketball game, which raised more than $10,000 for a local breast cancer awareness charity. Bjorn's championship attitude is rooted in a philosophy in which everyone in the URI athletics department is a fundraiser and marketer.
"We need to be tireless in our efforts to bring in external dollars - not just to sustain, but rather to grow all of our programs," Bjorn explained. "As we go out into the community, we have the opportunity to 'sell' URI and our mission to our current and future donors, sponsors and ticket buyers. We have to continue to move forward and become increasingly creative in how we accomplish our goals."
He served as chairman of the Atlantic 10 scheduling policy committee in 2009. On the national level he sat on the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Rowing Committee from 2009-2013. He currently sits on nine separate committees: NCAA Division I Legislative Council, the Atlantic 10 Conference Realignment Committee, the FCS Athletic Directors Association-Executive Committee, Mentor to RisingAD’s, the Atlantic 10 Revenue Distribution Subcommittee, the Atlantic 10 Television Committee, the Atlantic 10 Membership Committee, the Atlantic 10 administrative committee and the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Committee where he serves as a co-chair.
Bjorn came to Kingston after spending 15 years at his alma mater - the University of Massachusetts - in a variety of athletic administrative roles. At the time of his hire, Bjorn had entered his fourth year as the senior associate athletic director at UMass, serving as the day-to-day sport supervisor for football and ice hockey, while also overseeing the men's and women's lacrosse programs. He directly supervised the UMass athletic marketing staff, corporate sales - including the UMass Radio Network, coaches shows and signage - and ticket operations. Bjorn also served as liaison between the athletic department and Global Spectrum - the management company for the William D. Mullins Center, home of UMass basketball and hockey.
He played an integral role in UMass' department-wide apparel deal with adidas, oversaw all aspects of the funding and installation of a multi-million dollar video scoreboard system in the Mullins Center, and helped to secure funding sources for a new artificial surface at Alumni Stadium - home of the nationally-ranked Minutemen football program.
From Sept. 2003-Feb. 2004, Bjorn was the interim athletic director at UMass. In that role, he oversaw all the department, including supervising a senior administrative staff of 10 associate and assistant athletic directors, as well as the head football, men's basketball, and men's ice hockey. During his tenure, he negotiated a contract extension with Don "Toot" Cahoon, head men's ice hockey coach, and was the athletic department liaison in a viability study on elevating to Division I-A (now "BCS") football status.
After a three-year stint as the director of regional sales and marketing for Resorts Sports Network in Portland, Maine, Bjorn returned to UMass in April of 2003 as the Associate AD/External Affairs. At RSN - a company which provides cable systems with programming at ski resorts - he was personally accountable for $1 million in television and web advertising revenue. In his role as Associate AD, Bjorn was responsible for soliciting all radio and television advertising and corporate sponsorship dollars for the athletic department, Mullins Center, and UMass Magazine - a total exceeding $1 million dollars. Under his watch, annual sponsorship revenue increased by over 135 percent.
Bjorn also directed the department's retail merchandise program, coordinated advertising campaigns and directed the ticket office. He also established "MinuteFan Park," an interactive fan experience at Alumni Stadium. After graduating from UMass and spending six months as an intern in the business office at the University of Connecticut, he returned to his alma mater as assistant athletic director for tickets and game operations in December of 1990, a position he held until being promoted in 1996.
A three-year letterwinner for the Minutemen football program, he earned his bachelor's degree in sports management from UMass in 1990, following with a master's degree in higher education from his alma mater in 1995. He met his wife Cyndy at UMass, and the couple has three daughters, twins Stephanie and Robyn and Rachael. The Bjorn family resides in North Kingstown.