Named as Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education on April 18, 2014, Amy Backus is in her sixth year at Case Western Reserve University. Formerly the senior associate athletic director at Yale University, Backus brings the Spartans a wealth of experience as a Division I and III basketball coach along with more than a decade of work in athletics administration.
A former basketball standout at nearby Vermilion High School, Backus went on to a four-year career as a member of the women's basketball team at Central Michigan University, serving as a team captain as a senior. After graduation, Backus began her professional career in intercollegiate athletics as a CMU assistant coach before scoring her first head coach position at then Otterbein College (now Otterbein University). She went on to similar positions at Middlebury College and Northwestern University and was the head coach at Yale University from 1999-2005 before retiring from the coaching ranks after a 26 year career.
Backus is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the Vermilion High School Hall of Fame. She is also a past international and national sailing champion.
Prior to arriving in Connecticut, she earned a master’s degree in administration and supervision with an emphasis on higher education from Loyola University of Chicago. She has served on numerous NCAA committees including the NCAA Division I Academic Performance Advisory Group, the NCAA Division I Legislative Council, and the NCAA Division III Interpretations and Legislative committee. She served as national chair of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee from 2008-2010. She currently serves on the NCAA Gender Equity Task Force, a group of 11 commissioners, college presidents and athletics directors, the goal of which is to move the needle on gender equity in college sports.
At Case Western Reserve University, Backus is involved on numerous campus committees, including the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Committee on Student Life, and the Committee on Women Faculty. Backus spearheaded a collaborative campus committee called 360 Proof, which explores the campus culture around alcohol. She also serves as a member of the VP for Student Affairs Executive team.
During her tenure at CWRU, Spartan teams have achieved tremendous success. Through the end of 2018, Case Western Reserve’s baseball, men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis and softball teams have each been nationally ranked. Team NCAA Postseason highlights for the Spartans under Backus include a fifth-place finish by the softball team in 2018 (the highest ever by a CWRU team), a quarterfinals appearance for the men’s soccer team in 2018, and a trip to the NCAA Round of 16 by the football team in 2017 and the men’s tennis team in 2016. Baseball, volleyball and men’s cross country have also qualified for the NCAA Championships since Backus’ arrival in Cleveland, while men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track and field, and women’s tennis have all qualified individuals for the NCAA Championships. CWRU teams have won three UAA Championship (baseball in 2018 and football in 2016 and 2017) and football claimed the 2017 PAC Championship.
Individually during her time at CWRU, 30 Spartan athletes have earned All-America honors, 14 have been named the UAA Player of the Year in their respective sport, and six have claimed UAA Rookie of the Year honors.
Academically, 21 Spartans have received CoSIDA Academic All-America honors since 2014-15, and nine graduating seniors have received the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. In addition, three CWRU athletes have won the Elite 90 Award (presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA at each championship site) and former men’s tennis player C.J. Krimbill was selected as an NCAA Today’s Top-10 Award winner in 2016.
Several programmatic initiatives have been undertaken including the establishment of the first student athlete leadership academy at CWRU called “The Program”. In 2017, the department began a student athlete focused Sustained Dialogue, the first such dedicated program in the country. Sustained Dialogue develops leaders able to transform differences into strong relationships essential to respectful communities.
Facility upgrades have included new turf and synthetic surfaces at DiSanto Field for football and soccer, the Veale Athletic Center, Mather Softball Park, and Nobby’s Ballpark. Backus also has worked to acquire the Berry House, the future home of men’s and women’s tennis. Upgrades to several locker rooms, athletic training rooms and office space have taken place under her tenure.
Branding and marketing initiatives have been a priority for Backus as she seeks to celebrate the rich history and success of CWRU Spartan teams and individuals.