Mike Thomas named next UI athletic director

Mike Thomas was named the next athletic director for the University of Illinois on Wednesday.

Thomas will be arriving to Champaign-Urbana after holding the same position for the University of Cincinnati since October 2005.

“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 in a press release. “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.”

Since Thomas was hired by Cincinnati, 70 percent of its players have graduated and the number of Big East Academic All-Stars has increased from 124 to 218.

Thomas was responsible for hiring former football coach Brian Kelly, who led the Bearcats to the Sugar Bowl in 2009.

Cincinnati’s athletics budget has also increased by $7 million since Thomas arrived, a 20 percent increase.

Prior to his time at Cincinnati, Thomas served as the athletic director for the University of Akron, which is in the Mid-American Conference

The athletics director announcement comes just one week after Phyllis Wise was named the next chancellor for the University.

“This is a terrific choice to lead the Fighting Illini program,” said Wise. “Mike has an iTncredibly 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.”