NIU AD Phillips to take over Northwestern athletics

EVANSTON, Ill. -- James J. Phillips was hired as Northwestern's athletic director on Thursday.

Phillips, the AD at Northern Illinois, will take over on April
14. He replaces Mark Murphy, who left earlier this year to become
president of the Green Bay Packers.

The Chicago Tribune first reported Thursday that Phillips would acccept Northwestern's offer. According to the report, Phillips was offered the job weeks ago, but delayed accepting it out of respect for NIU in the wake of the Feb. 14 campus shooting in which a gunman killed five students and himself.

"I am thrilled to be coming to Northwestern but will always
remain extremely grateful to the wonderful people at Northern
Illinois University," Phillips said in a statement. "A
significant part of my heart as well as my family's heart will
forever remain at NIU."

Phillips has been credited for raising the profile of NIU athletics and improving fund-raising efforts and athletic facilities. Under Phillips, the athletes' grade-point average and graduation rates rose, and the football team reached two bowl games.

An Illinois graduate, Phillips was a senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame before taking the post at NIU.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.