Under Armour recognized the University of Rhode Island’s Thorr Bjorn as the 2015-16 Athletic Director of the Year in an announcement on March 2 by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
Bjorn’s continued efforts and determination since coming to URI in July of 2007 has paid off for the university’s athletics, as both staff and athletes have reaped the benefits of a Bjorn’s dedication and the athletes themselves have helped make it possible for Bjorn to receive such an award.
“It’s not a one-person award, it’s a department award,” Bjorn said.
Before coming to URI, Bjorn spent years in the athletic department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The difference between URI and UMass is mainly the size of the student population. Here at URI, Bjorn said he has been able to connect to a large population of the student-athletes and get to know them beyond who they are on the field.
“It’s my favorite thing about being athletic director, I love being around the athletes,” Bjorn said. “I love getting to know them personally.”
Forming personal relationships with the athletes and encouraging them to be a family, not just one single team, is what Bjorn strives for in the URI athletic world. Bjorn takes being a “ram fam” seriously, and urges his staff and athletes to not only be members of a team but a family.
When Bjorn came to URI almost nine years ago, the athletic department was divided and moving in different directions. Now, the department’s greatest strength is that they are all on the same page.
“We’re one huge family of 500 people,” Bjorn said. “It’s a culture.”
The culture of being a family and working together is expressed to the freshman athletes that come to URI. There are three things that Bjorn tells the committed recruits: they’ll receive a good education, they’ll learn to work hard and do things the right way and they will want to win.
Bjorn is aware that URI and its athletics represent not only the school but also the state of Rhode Island. Pushing the athletes to become better and win games is apart of the department’s goals.
Having the finances and resources to provide a structure for the athletes and the department contribute to winning as well. Under Bjorn’s time at URI, there have been many renovations to the locker rooms, weight rooms and facilities as a whole, in order to give the athletes what they need to win.
“You have to make investments to make the program better,” Bjorn said. “We’ve made financial investments to help the athletics grow.”
Although Bjorn was awarded athletic director of the year, he isn’t totally satisfied. He said he has every intention to keep working hard and continue to move in the right direction. The department has to keep upgrading and funding in order to sustain the programs Bjorn has worked to build for the last several years.
“Until every student-athlete leaves with a diploma in one hand and a national championship in the other, I won’t be satisfied,” Bjorn said.