Mike Thomas, athletic director at the University of Cincinnati since 2005, will be the new director of athletics at the UI's Urbana campus, pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees. The announcement was made Aug. 10.
Mike Thomas will be the new director of athletics at the UI's Urbana campus.
Thomas, 51, has led a vibrant and successful Bearcats athletic program since he took the helm, winning five Big East team titles, an NCAA individual championship and producing 12 All-Americans in a range of sports and earning multiple Big East academic excellence awards.
"This is a terrific choice to lead the Fighting Illini program," said Phyllis M. Wise, who is slated to become vice president of the UI and chancellor of the Urbana campus on Oct. 1, pending UI Board of Trustees approval. "Mike has an incredibly strong record of building winning programs with the highest degree of integrity and academic excellence. He has accomplished a lot with modest resources, and has a passion in his belly for the U. of I."
Thomas said he is honored to be entrusted with a Big Ten athletics program with as much history and potential as the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics at the UI.
"Intercollegiate athletics are a critical element of the campus community, and I understand the importance of student-athletes excelling in both the playing arena and the classroom," Thomas said. "The U. of I. has the essential pieces - facilities, staff, athletes, alumni and fans - for continued excellence and success, and I'm deeply honored and excited to be able to lead the Fighting Illini."
Thomas, a 26-year veteran of college athletics administration, is credited with boosting the Bearcat athletic program to national prominence in men's and women's sports during his six years as athletic director.
Under his leadership, UC nearly tripled its donor base and raised $70 million for the athletic program. He expanded athletic facilities, including securing private funding for a new athletic center that includes new practice fields for football and other athletic teams. Thomas increased external funding for the UC athletic department budget by $7 million, a 20 percent increase, while simultaneously reducing the annual operating deficit by more than $6 million.
During Thomas' tenure, the UC athletic program was one of the most recognized schools for academic success in the 16-team Big East, including a league-best five team academic excellence awards in 2009-10.
"We selected Mike because of his great experience in both athletics and academics," UI President Michael J. Hogan said. "His student-athletes excel in competition, in the classroom, in leadership and in life after collegiate athletics."
Before taking the athletic director post at Cincinnati, Thomas spent five years as athletic director at the University of Akron and seven years as associate athletic director at the University of Virginia. From 1986 to 1993, he was assistant athletic director for internal operations at the University of Denver.
Thomas has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Colorado State University, and a master's degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois University. He and his wife, Jenifer, have four children.
Thomas succeeds Ron Guenther, who retired in July after 19 years as director of athletics at Illinois with a legacy of winning Big Ten teams, integrity, fundraising success and expansion of varsity sports and recreation facilities.
DIA is responsible for 19 varsity sports and has 200 full-time employees and a $67 million budget.