From her three-sport days in high school to balancing track and field with basketball at DePauw University, Angie Torain understands what it means to be both student and athlete.
Now, almost two years into her tenure as the director of the Department of Athletics & Recreation at the University of Chicago, helping students master that same balance is her full-time job.
“Sports have always been a part of my life, however, I was raised in a home where I could only play if my grades were acceptable to my mother,” she said. “Here at UChicago, student athletes have the city, academics and a really competitive program. I love that we embrace the holistic approach to athletics and attending college at UChicago.”
UChicago appointed Torain to lead its athletic department in May 2021. She had most recently served as the senior associate athletics director of culture, diversity and engagement at Notre Dame. Since coming to UChicago, she oversees 20 varsity teams, and more than 75 intramural and club sports programs.
Torain has ushered in a new era for UChicago athletics. The Maroons have brought home four conference championships and two national titles since she was named athletic director.
Taking time away from her busy workload as the leader of her department, liaison for community interactions, and advocate for students, coaches and staff, Torain sat down to discuss what it means to be an athletic director at UChicago. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What does it mean to you to be the athletic director of UChicago?
It’s probably the greatest job on Earth!
I have the opportunity to connect with athletes, coaches, University staff and our recreational patrons who use our facilities to ensure that we are providing everyone who uses the athletics facilities with the best experience possible.
What does a normal day look like for you?
There’s no normal day. However, most of the time, I’m here in my office working on budgets, NCAA matters, facility issues, or connecting with a campus partner, a staff member or coach. I also spend my days at athletic competitions cheering on our wonderful athletes. If our athletes are competing on campus, I try to be there to support them.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love to watch our athletes compete and meet the goals they set, either as a team or as individuals. It’s also great to see the pride that our athletes take in being athletes and students at the University of Chicago—the relationship building that I get to do with them is probably my favorite part.
How does someone find themselves working toward a career as an athletic director? Did you always know you wanted to do it?
No, I did not. I went to college thinking I would pursue a degree in education and become a middle school teacher, but once I graduated, I decided to go to law school thinking I might become a sports agent or work at a sports and entertainment law firm.
I ended up falling into collegiate athletics through NCAA compliance. If you think about compliance, it’s writing, interpreting and applying rules, which definitely correlates with my legal background.
My first job was at a Division I conference office, doing compliance for the members, and from there, I started exploring championships. From a compliance standpoint, you interact with the athletes, but it’s not at the fun level – it’s about eligibility and completing forms. I wanted to be more connected with the management of sports, and so I moved over to event management, conducting championships, first at the conference level and then at the NCAA level. Since my first job in collegiate athletics, I never looked back.