New Illini Athletic Director: Former Cincinnati Bearcats A.D. Mike Thomas

The new athletic director of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was named today: Mike Thomas, athletic director at the University of Cincinnati since 2005.

Thomas led a 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 wide range of sports and earning multiple Big East academic excellence awards.

Thomas said he is honored to be entrusted with a Big Ten athletics program with as much history and potential as Illini athletics.

“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.

Cincinnati’s football program won back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009 – the first in school history – and finished 12-0 in 2009, winning the Sugar Bowl and placing third in the final BCS rankings.

Thomas also led a resurgence of the Bearcat men’s basketball program, which is the only Division I team to improve its win total over each of the last five seasons. The Bearcats finished 26-9 in 2010-11, returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004-05.


Illini A.D. Ron Guenther, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Step Down Today


Today, two leaders in the Land of Lincoln’s prominent leadership positions stepped down today. We saw both abdications coming for a long while, and it’s just coincidence that both media stories happen to fall on the same day. Although, both of these men became the longest serving in the history of their respective roles and came to power around the same time.

Today, Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as the 46th mayor of Chicago, he is the hand-picked successor to Richard M. Daley, and assumes his role in an old-fashioned political  “switcheroo” as Daley’s brother, William now has Rahm’s old position- White House Chief of Staff. The post has been deemed “The Second-Most Powerful Person in Washington” due to the nature of the job.

Illinois Director of Athletics Ron Guenther announced today his retirement upon the completion of his contract on June 30. The longest-tenured athletics director in the Big Ten, Guenther leaves the position after 19 years in which Fighting Illini teams captured 34 Big Ten Championships, made a men’s basketball Final Four appearance (2005) and made six football bowl appearances (2010, 2007, 2001, 1999, 1992, 1991).

By Paul M. Banks

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