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.