Completely Unsolicited Thoughts On Mike Thomas
I was contacted recently by another SBN blog, wanting to know what I thought about our new AD Mike Thomas, based on what we have seen so far, how I think he will handle the next few months. This was my response, and after I wrote it, I was like, "Wow, I could just publish this for a quick and easy post."
I'm not sure if anyone really trusts their AD, with the possible exception of Nebraska fans, who still ritually give burnt offering to Dr. Tom. The AD we had for a long time, Ron Guenther was probably great for this school, he pushed ahead the football stadium renovation, (which was dearly needed) and was responsible for completely redesigning the south end of campus into state of the art student athletic facilities. He was an alum and former teammate of Dick Butkus, who had to come in and put things back together after NCAA sanctions left the department behind the eight ball.
Technically, Ron Guenther saw two football teams go to BCS bowls, and saw the basketball team go to a Four during his tenure, all with coaches he hired.
Even then, by 2011, there were plenty of people cheering when he decided to retire. What Ron Guenther valued most in the Athletic Department was loyalty to the University of Illinois, at the cost maybe of athletic success.
Mike Thomas basically came in with a reputation of being a sober manager who would assess and overhaul the entire Illini athletic department. His first hire will probably be a solid one, even if he did not get his, or Illini fans' first choice. It was well known that the Department made a very serious effort to get Kevin Sumlin, and with the amount of money being rumored there it at least signals that Thomas is not about cutting corners or saving nickels.
At the very least, Thomas is someone who is not emotionally invested in the status quo in the Athletic Department. He understands that attendance, revenues, and national profile are paramount to running successful programs, and has stated that it is these sort of real and quantifiable factors that drive his decisions on retaining, dismissing, and hiring coaches.
By the end of this academic year, it is quite possible that the University of Illinois will have new coaches in the football team and both men's and women's basketball team. The quality of Thomas' ability to run an athletic department will be apparent fairly quickly, as he will have his fingerprints on three of the most important sports in college athletics.
The only thing that anyone can really ask of their AD is that they assess every situation without emotion and make the decision that just makes the most sense. In Mike Thomas, I hope at least that is what we have here.
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