Mike Thomas (athletic director)

Last updated

Mike Thomas
Biographical details
Born Pueblo, Colorado
Alma mater Colorado State University BS '83
Western Illinois University MA '86
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
2000–2005 Akron
2005–2011 Cincinnati
2011–2015 Illinois
2017–2018 Cleveland State

Michael J. Thomas is an American university administrator, and the former athletic director at Cleveland State University. Thomas was previously athletic director at the University of Illinois from 2011-2015, University of Cincinnati from 2005-2011, and the University of Akron from 2000-2005. Previously, he served as an associate athletic director at the University of Virginia and the University of Denver, and spent a year at the University of Iowa as an administrative intern.


Twice during his career Thomas has won the Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletics Director Award, once in 2005 while at Akron, and again in April 2008 while at Cincinnati.

Early life, education and family

Thomas was born in Pueblo, CO and graduated from Pueblo South High School in 1978. He earned his bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University in 1983, and his master's degree in Physical Education/Athletic Administration from Western Illinois University in 1986.

Thomas is married to the former Jeni Arends from Manchester, Iowa, and has four adult children.


Cleveland State University

Thomas was named Director of Athletics at Cleveland State University on February 8, 2017. [1]

University of Illinois

Thomas was named Director of Athletics at the University of Illinois in August 2011. During his first year at Illinois he replaced the football coach and both the men's and women's basketball coaches. Thomas launched the $170-million State Farm Center renovation project, including a landmark $60-million naming rights agreement that was the largest for a college-only venue in the country.

Under Thomas's leadership, the University of Illinois won Big Ten championships in all four 2015 men's spring sports: baseball, tennis, track and field, and golf. Thomas was also responsible for leading the Illinois Big Ten athletic program to bowl and NCAA tournament appearances and Top Ten national finishes in baseball, volleyball, men's golf, men's track and field, men's tennis, wrestling, and men's gymnastics. While Thomas was the Director of Athletics at UI, he put staff and programs in place that elevated the overall student-athlete GPA average from 3.05 to 3.25 and increased annual student-athlete community service hours from 5,000 to 7,000. In 2015, Thomas received the Western Illinois University Alumni Achievement Award and in 2014, he was awarded the University of Illinois Award for Communications and Marketing Excellence. [2]

Thomas also led several other facility projects, including enhancements to Memorial Stadium and Huff Hall, and the construction of a new outdoor golf facility. Thomas signed a 10-year, $60-million dollar contract with Learfield Sports and guided Illinois through an 18-month collaboration with Nike, resulting in all new marks and branding.

On November 9, 2015, Thomas was fired via a without cause contractual clause from the University of Illinois. Most speculate it was tied to Tim Beckman and the treatment of the football team. [3]

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati named Thomas as its athletic director on October 20, 2005. Thomas was charged with the competitive rebuilding of the Bearcats Program by then President Nancy Zimpher. During his tenure in Cincinnati, Thomas hired men's basketball coach Mick Cronin, and football head coaches Brian Kelly and Butch Jones. Cincinnati Football enjoyed the greatest success in its history under these coaches, winning several Big East titles and advancing to the school's only BCS Bowl Games in the 2009 FedEx Orange Bowl and the 2010 Allstate Sugar Bowl, which capped the undefeated 12-0 regular season.

While holding the role of Director of Athletics, Thomas increased the university's donor base by 180% and raised $70 million for the annual fund, capital projects, and endowments. Thomas secured and expanded a regional television agreement with FOX Sports, which substantially increased coverage for football, men's basketball, and women's basketball. He also increased football season ticket sales and revenue by more than 300%. Lastly, under Thomas's leadership the university experienced an increase in annual student-athletes on Big East Academic All-Star Team from 124 to 218. In 2009, Thomas was honored to receive the Sports Executive of the Year Award from the Cincinnati Sports Professional Network. In 2008, Thomas was awarded for the second time the General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director Award from the All-American Football Foundation. [4]

Thomas increased the graduate success rate and the APR, and under his direction UC was one of the leaders in the Big East conference for academic success. Membership in the school's athletic fundraising arm increased by almost 300% under Thomas' tenure, and funds were raised for several capital projects. He was recognized as the Cincinnati Sports Executive of the Year in 2010.

University of Akron

Thomas was named Director of Athletics at the University of Akron in October 2000. Under his direction, Akron rose from last place to second among MAC schools in the Director's Cup rankings, and simultaneously rose from last to second place in the MAC academic achievement awards. He increased corporate sponsorship levels by 750%. Additionally, Thomas launched the building of a new on campus football stadium and secured $20 million in individual and corporate gifts for the project. Thomas replaced Lee Owens, the football coach, with JD Brookhart. The Zips went on to win their first MAC football championship. Thomas' hire of men's basketball coach Keith Dambrot has led to unparalleled success, including eight postseason appearances in the last ten years.

In 2005 Thomas was awarded the General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director Award from the All-American Football Foundation.

Other career positions

Prior to his time at Akron, he was associate athletics director at the University of Virginia and also served on the athletics staffs at the University of Denver and the University of Iowa.

Related Research Articles

Mid-American Conference U.S. college sports conference

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I collegiate athletic conference with a membership base in the Great Lakes region that stretches from Western New York to Illinois. Nine of the twelve full member schools are in Ohio and Michigan, with single members located in Illinois, Indiana, and New York. For football, the MAC participates in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision.

Tennessee Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers and Lady Volunteers are the 20 male and female varsity intercollegiate athletics programs that represent the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Volunteers compete in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In December 2017, former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer was introduced as Tennessee's new athletic director.

Louisville Cardinals

The Louisville Cardinals are the NCAA athletic teams representing the University of Louisville. The Cardinals teams play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, beginning in the 2014 season. While playing in the Big East Conference from 2005 through 2013, the Cardinals captured 17 regular season Big East titles and 33 Big East Tournament titles totaling 50 Big East Championships across all sports. With their 2013 Sugar Bowl appearance against the Florida Gators, the Cardinals football team became the only football team in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to have appeared in and won two Bowl Championship Series bowls, having defeated Wake Forest 24–13 in the 2007 Orange Bowl and Florida 33–23 in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. On November 28, 2012, Louisville received and accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference and became a participating member in all sports in 2014. In 2016, Lamar Jackson won the school its first Heisman Trophy. Their fan base is referred to as “Card Nation.” Their fans are known to appear in large numbers at away venues causing red adorned fans to be seen across visiting stadiums. This has become known as the “red mist.”

Fritz Crisler

Herbert Orin "Fritz" Crisler was an American college football coach who is best known as "the father of two-platoon football," an innovation in which separate units of players were used for offense and defense. Crisler developed two-platoon football while serving as head coach at the University of Michigan from 1938 to 1947. He also coached at the University of Minnesota (1930–1931) and Princeton University (1932–1937). Before coaching, he played football at the University of Chicago under Amos Alonzo Stagg, who nicknamed him Fritz after violinist Fritz Kreisler.

Edwin Louis Jucker was an American basketball and baseball coach and college athletics administrator. He served as the head basketball coach at the United States Merchant Marine Academy from 1945 to 1948, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) from 1948 to 1953, the University of Cincinnati from 1960 to 1965, and Rollins College from 1972 to 1977, compiling a career college basketball coaching record of 270–122. He led the Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball program to consecutive national titles, winning the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 1961 and 1962. Jucker was also the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team from 1954 to 1960 while serving as an assistant coach for the basketball team. He spent two seasons coaching in the professional ranks, leading the Cincinnati Royals of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1967 to 1969. Jucker served as the athletic director at Rollins College from 1981 to 1983.

Kirby Hocutt is the current athletic director at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas and the Big 12 representative to the College Football Playoff committee. Additionally, Hocutt is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Football Recruiting Subcommittee. Hocutt formerly held the same position at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio from 2005 to 2008 and the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida from 2008 to 2011.

Northwestern Wildcats

The Northwestern Wildcats are the athletic teams that represent Northwestern University, located in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference and the only private university in the conference. Northwestern has eight men's and eleven women's NCAA Division I sports teams and is known as "Chicago's Big Ten Team". The mascot is Willie the Wildcat. The athletic director is former Northern Illinois University Athletic Director Jim Phillips, who took office in April 2008.

Cincinnati Bearcats

The Cincinnati Bearcats are the athletic teams that represent the University of Cincinnati. The teams are members of the American Athletic Conference, which from 1979 to 2013 was known as the Big East Conference. Cincinnati and Wichita State University are currently the only members of The American that are located in the Midwestern United States; all other members are in the Northeast or South.

George Babcock (American football)

Richard George Babcock was an American football player, coach and athletic director. He played college football for the University of Michigan from 1923 to 1925 and served as the head football coach at the University of Akron in 1926 and at the University of Cincinnati from 1927 to 1930. He also served as the University of Cincinnati's athletic director from 1927 to 1932.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Intercollegiate sports teams of Rutgers University

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the athletic teams that represent Rutgers University's New Brunswick campus. In sports, Rutgers is chiefly known for being the "Birthplace of College Football", hosting the first ever intercollegiate football game on November 6, 1869 in which Rutgers defeated a team from the College of New Jersey with a score of 6 runs to 4.

Mick Cronin (basketball) American basketball coach

Michael Walter Cronin is an American men's college basketball coach who is the head coach of the UCLA Bruins of the Pac-12 Conference. Cronin was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bruins in 2019–20. He arrived at UCLA having previously served as the head coach for the Cincinnati Bearcats for 13 seasons. Cronin had been named the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Coach of the Year in 2014 and guided Cincinnati's program to nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Prior to joining Cincinnati in 2006, he coached the Murray State Racers from 2003 to 2006.

Butch Jones American football coach

Lyle Allen "Butch" Jones Jr. is an American football coach. He is currently the head football coach at Arkansas State University. He previously served as a special assistant to the head coach at the University of Alabama. Jones served as the head football coach at Central Michigan from 2007 to 2009, Cincinnati from 2010 to 2012, and Tennessee from 2013 to 2017. A Michigan native, he played college football at Ferris State University as a running back and wide receiver.

The Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball program represents the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. The school's team competes in NCAA Division I as part of the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats are coached by John Brannen, who has been UC's head coach since 2019.

The 2008 Cincinnati Bearcats football team represented the University of Cincinnati in the 2008 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The team, coached by Brian Kelly, played its homes game in Nippert Stadium. Kelly was in his second full season with the Bearcats after coaching them to a 31–21 win against Southern Miss in the 2007 PapaJohns.com Bowl. On Friday, November 28, 2008, the Bearcats clinched a share of the Big East Conference title for the first time since joining the Big East in 2005. With a victory over Syracuse on November 29, 2008 the Bearcats became the outright football champions of the Big East and set a record with an average attendance of 31,964. After a disappointing loss to Virginia Tech in the 2009 Orange Bowl, the Bearcats finished 17th in the AP Top 25 for the second consecutive year. With West Virginia falling off Cincinnati became the front runner to win the big east.

2009 Orange Bowl annual NCAA football game

The 2009 FedEx Orange Bowl was the 75th edition of the annual American college football bowl game known as the Orange Bowl. It pitted the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion Virginia Tech Hokies against the Big East Conference champion Cincinnati Bearcats on January 1, 2009, at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Virginia Tech defeated Cincinnati, 20–7. The game was the second contest in the 2008–2009 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) of the 2008 NCAA Division I FBS football season and was the concluding game of the season for both teams. The game was televised in the United States on FOX, and an estimated 9.3 million viewers watched the broadcast live.

Tony Pike American football quarterback

Anthony Steven Pike is a former American football quarterback who played for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Cincinnati and was drafted by the Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Cincinnati Bearcats football

The Cincinnati Bearcats football program represents the University of Cincinnati in college football. They compete at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level as members of the American Athletic Conference, and have played their home games in historic Nippert Stadium since 1924. The Bearcats have an all-time record of over .500 as of 2018, having reached their 600th program victory in 2017. The team has had a bit of a resurgence in the past few years, going 98-56 since 2006, along with 9 bowl game appearances, 5 conference titles, two BCS Bowl berths, and 22 NFL Draft selections.

McKendree Bearcats

The McKendree Bearcats are the intercollegiate athletic programs of McKendree University located in Lebanon, Illinois, United States. The Bearcats athletic program is a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

Bruce Van De Velde

Bruce Van De Velde served as Director of Athletics at Louisiana Tech University from 2010 to July 1 2013 when he stepped down. From 2008 to 2010, Van De Velde served as Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Operating Officer at Louisiana Tech University under then-Director of Athletics/Head Football Coach Derek Dooley.


  1. http://www.csuvikings.com/information/directory/Athletic_Administration/Thomas_Mike?view=bio . Retrieved 2017-09-25.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. "Illinois Athletics - Staff Directory". www.fightingillini.com. Retrieved 2016-05-17.
  3. "Distractions, Thomas Fired as Illinois AD". The Telegraph. November 9, 2015.
  4. "GoBEARCATS.COM - University Of Cincinnati Official Athletic Site". www.gobearcats.com. Retrieved 2016-05-17.