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Open Mike: An Introduction from Mike Thomas

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AD-Thomas_ArkSt_0104.jpg Illini Fans,

I have officially been on the job a little more than three weeks, and have learned a great deal about this outstanding institution and the athletic and academic traditions that have been built over the decades. The Illini football team is off to a terrific 3-0 start following the win Saturday night over nationally ranked Arizona State in an incredible atmosphere at Memorial Stadium. Our fans should be very proud of the support they showed Coach Zook and our team in that important victory. I hope the energy and enthusiasm continues as we move through what promises to be an exciting season.

My wife, Jeni, and I anticipate becoming very involved with the community. The people we have met so far have been extremely welcoming, and we look forward to meeting many more of you over the next several months.  We are both very excited to have this opportunity at a world-class institution like the University of Illinois.

I was born in Colorado and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Colorado State, with my master's degree from Western Illinois. I have had the opportunity to work at Iowa, Denver and Virginia while serving as Director of Athletics at Akron for five years and Cincinnati for six years before moving to Illinois in late summer.

I am one of 10 children, born right in the middle at number five. I often tell people that gave me the experience of managing up as well as down.  Jeni and I met in college at Colorado State and have been married for 29 years. We have been blessed with four wonderful children. Our first son, Vince, was born while we lived in Macomb, Ill., and I was in grad school at Western Illinois. Vince (26) is currently living and working in New York City as a systems engineer. Joey (22) graduated from Cincinnati in June. He was actually recruited by Mark Dantonio and played wide receiver for Brian Kelly his freshman year before giving up the sport to concentrate on his studies. He lives in Nashville, Tenn., and works for Creative Artists Agency. Mick (20) is currently enrolled at Parkland College here in Champaign-Urbana and is undecided at this point about his major. Our daughter, Meredith (16), is a sophomore at St. Thomas More High School in Champaign and is making new friends each day.  She is maybe most excited about the fact that Illinois is a Nike school when it comes to official apparel.

In my first few weeks, I've had a chance to visit with many of our coaches and student-athletes, while watching our nationally ranked football, volleyball and soccer teams all compete here on campus. I have been very impressed with the quality of people coaching our teams and the student-athletes wearing the Orange and Blue. It is easy to see why there is so much passion for the Fighting Illini.

Our fans and donors play a critical role in the success of our programs. From being in attendance and purchasing tickets at Memorial Stadium, Assembly Hall and Huff Hall, to financial support with the I FUND, you are helping nearly 500 Illini student-athletes compete at the highest level while earning a degree at one of the world's most prestigious institutions.

I will use this space to regularly communicate with our donors, fans and supporters. If you have any comments, please contact me by email at FightingIlliniAD@illinois.edu.

I look forward to talking to you at an upcoming Fighting Illini event. Thanks for the gracious and warm welcome we have received and your support of our athletic programs.

Go Illini!

Mike Thomas
Director of Athletics

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