Commitments Total More Than $2.5 Million
40 Donors Contribute More than $9 Million for SFC Project
Former Illini Star and Globetrotter Owner Makes Major Gift to SFC
The University of Illinois introduces new Illinois Pride initiative throughout the state.
New Agreement Takes Contract to 2019
Photos from Illinois Football's 2013 postseason awards banquet, Dec. 8, 2013, at I Hotel. (Mark Jones/Illinois Athletics)
Press Conference & behind the scenes photos from John Groce's 1st day as Illini men's basketball coach - March 29, 2012.
Matt Bollant was hired as Illinois women's basketball coach on March 28, 2012.
Hear from Director of Athletics Mike Thomas on Open Mike, Saturdays at 10 a.m. on WDWS 1400AM.
Mike Thomas is in his third year at the University of Illinois in 2013-14 after being named the school's 18th director of athletics on Aug. 10, 2011. That follows six successful years as the director of athletics at the University of Cincinnati. A 28-year veteran of college athletics administration, Thomas has continued to boost the Fighting Illini athletic program to national prominence in men's and women's sports.
Thomas launched the State Farm Center renovation project and received UI Board of Trustees approval to move forward with the $165 million project. Illinois signed a landmark 30-year, $60 million naming rights agreement with State Farm for the renovated State Farm Center, formerly known as Assembly Hall, in April 2013. It is the largest corporate naming rights deal for a college-only venue in the country.
During his second year at Illinois, Thomas led a group that signed a 10-year agreement with Learfield Sports as the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics' exclusive athletics marketing partner and multimedia rights holder, marking the first time DIA has outsourced its multimedia rights in a comprehensive package. DIA realized more than $2.3 million net increase in value year-over-year and estimates that the agreement will generate more than $60 million over its lifetime. Also on the revenue side, the UI saw an increase in the I FUND annual fund, in the number of Loyalty Circle members and in the overall donor base.
The overall GPA for 19 sports for both the fall and spring semesters in 2012-13 was an impressive 3.12. Ten teams posted perfect scores of 1,000 in the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) for the 2011-12 academic year, including baseball, men's golf, men's gymnastics, men's tennis, women's cross country, women's golf, women's gymnastics, soccer, women's tennis, women's track and field (indoor and outdoor) and volleyball.
A $7.2 million project at Memorial Stadium that includes a new video board, ribbon boards, auxiliary video boards, sound system and control room was completed in time for the 2013 football season. Illinois also developed and launched a branding campaign in announcing the new athletic slogan - "Illinois. Our State. Our Team." - around the state.
Fighting Illini teams won Big Ten championships in men's golf and women's indoor track and field in 2012-13. Wrestler Jesse Delgado, men's gymnast Fred Hartville and women's track athlete Ashley Spencer all won individual NCAA championships in their respective sports.
In his first year at Illinois, Thomas directed Fighting Illini teams that won a national championship in men's gymnastics and Big Ten titles in women's soccer, men's gymnastics, men's tennis and men's golf, while also producing six NCAA individual champions, and 24 All-Americans in a wide range of sports. Illinois finished 21st in the final Learfield Director's Cup standings, just one spot behind the school's highest all-time finish.
In December 2011, Thomas announced the hiring of Tim Beckman as the Fighting Illini football coach. In April 2012, Thomas also named new head coaches in men's and women's basketball with the hiring of John Groce for the men and Matt Bollant for the women.
Prior to his move to Illinois, Thomas revamped and led a vibrant Cincinnati Bearcats athletic program from 2005-11, directing the school's launch into the Big East Conference and earning several Big East championships, as well as multiple Big East academic excellence awards.
In 2006, Thomas hired head football coach Brian Kelly and the Cincinnati football team made program history in the three following seasons by achieving a 34-6 record, consecutive Big East Championships and appearances in the Orange and Sugar Bowls. The 2009 season ended with UC finishing 12-0 and No. 3 in the final BCS rankings. Thomas also hired Butch Jones, who went on to ensure Cincinnati's dominance on the conference scene, sharing in a Big East title in 2011 and 2012.
Thomas brought back a Bearcat when he hired former UC assistant Mick Cronin as head men's basketball coach in 2006. Cronin returned the program to national prominence with appearances in the NCAA tournament the past three seasons.
UC grew to be one of the most recognized schools in the 16-member Big East for academic success and earning multiple Big East Academic Excellence Awards, including a league-high five Big East Academic Excellence Awards in 2009-10.
The overall APR of all Bearcats programs also increased during Thomas' tenure. In the final APR report from his tenure, five UC athletic teams earned perfect APR scores of 1,000, including men's basketball. In that same time period, the Graduate Success Rate (GSR) for student-athletes increased from 66 percent to 77 percent.
From 2006-11, UC's student-athletes emerged as community leaders, with annual community service hours growing from 1,000 to over 5,500.
On the external side, the University of Cincinnati grew at a tremendous rate. Thomas increased UC's athletic department budget 20 percent, while simultaneously reducing the annual operating deficit by more than $6 million.
UC established single-season attendance and revenue records for football in each of the three seasons from 2008-10. Football attendance skyrocketed, with season-ticket package sales exploding by 277 percent since 2006 and resulting in record football revenues.
In terms of donor development, membership in UCATS increased by almost 300 percent during Thomas' tenure and the department raised $70 million during his arrival. Thomas raised private funds and built the Sheakley Athletics Center, providing football and other UC athletic teams much needed additional practice and competitive space. In 2008-09, Thomas revamped UC's multimedia rights partnership, reaching an agreement with IMG College for a new multimedia rights partnership, increasing overall revenues in this area by over $17 million.
Prior to taking the athletic director position at UC, Thomas spent five years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Akron and seven years as associate athletic director at the University of Virginia, an institution known for achieving impressive success both academically and athletically, before bringing that model to Akron. Virginia finished in the Top 25 in the Director's Cup in each year of Thomas' tenure there while at the same time finishing in the Top 10 nationally in student-athlete graduation rates.
Under Thomas' direction, Akron rose from last place to second among Mid-American Conference schools in the Director's Cup annual rankings. Simultaneously, Akron vaulted from last to second place in the MAC Academic Achievement Awards. Thomas increased the financial base of the Akron athletics program through increasing corporate sponsorship levels by 750 percent and boosted annual giving to athletics to its highest level in the school's history. Community support was rallied, with record increases shown in both football and basketball attendance.
During this time period, the Zips won their first MAC football championship and Thomas' hire of men's basketball coach Keith Dambrot led to unparalleled success on the hardwood with Dambrot's program becoming one of the most successful in the MAC over the past eight seasons. While at Akron, support services and facilities for academic support for student-athletes were significantly improved, resulting in jumps in grade point averages and graduation rates of UA student-athletes.
During his career in collegiate athletics, Thomas has coordinated over $325 million in facility construction and renovation, including $25 million in capital improvements at Akron that featured a new indoor fieldhouse and golf facility, a football practice complex, and a softball facility. He also spearheaded the new on-campus football stadium and was instrumental in the development and launching stages of the $61 million facility, which opened in September of 2009.
At Virginia, Thomas served as a member of the senior staff and was sport oversight for eight programs. He served as the department liaison for the $86 million renovation to UVA's football stadium and oversaw several other capital projects. In addition, Thomas served as the Chair of the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Committee and also served on the ACC Sportsmanship Committee.
Recognized for his administrative acumen by his peers, Thomas has served on several national and conference committees, including the NCAA Division I Championship/Sports Management Cabinet (where he also served as the NCAA men's basketball liaison to the cabinet and as a member of the cabinet's four-person Administrative Committee) and the NCAA Men's Basketball Issues Committee. Thomas also previously chaired the Big East Championship and Competition Committee and served as a member of the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet, the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Issues Committee, the NCAA Division I Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet, the NCAA Postseason Bowl Licensing Subcommittee and the Division IA Athletics Director's Association Legislative Review Committee. He presently serves on the Big Ten Legislative Review Committee.
Twice during his career, Thomas has received distinction for his efforts and dedication as a director of athletics, garnering the General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletics Director Award in 2005 at Akron and then again in April of 2008 at Cincinnati. He has been recognized by the Cincinnati Sports Professionals Network as the 2009-10 Sports Executive of the Year. Prior to his experience at Virginia, Thomas spent seven years at the University of Denver as assistant athletic director for internal operations, serving as chief financial officer and overseeing the departments of compliance, merchandising, and facilities. He began his athletic administration career at the University of Iowa as an administrative and operations intern.
Thomas received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Colorado State University in 1983, and his master's degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois University in 1986. He and his wife, Jenifer, have four children: Vince, Joey, Mick and Meredith.
Updated July 2013