Whit Babcock joined the University of Cincinnati in the middle of the Bearcats’ football season but today his legacy leading the Bearcats’ athletic department begins. Just minutes into his induction speech most of us knew he was the right man for the job. He said all the right things and instituted a specific plan to instill three main values into the Cincinnati athletic department:
- Commitment to comprehensive excellence
- Focusing on the student athlete and ensuring they will be a role model to those around them
- Community engagement
But even though he’s been on the job for less than a year, he has made massive changes throughout his department. Babcock brought a breath of fresh air to Cincinnati that his predecessor seemed to have sucked out during his time here. Most of us have heard the horror stories during his reign of terror. Some of my favorites include Thomas refusing to pay for cell phone plans for Brian Kelly’s staff and how he would invite his kid’s friends to his private box in 5/3rd Arena instead of hosting corporate bigwigs from around the Cincinnati area.
It was that kind of backward thinking that made absolutely zero sense to those who expected more out of him and when he finally ‘left’ for Illinois celebration in most Bearcat circles followed. But what he left behind was a laundry list of issues within Cincinnati’s athletic department for Whit Babcock to clean up. The new UC athletic director did what he could despite being hamstrung by the budgetary constraints of the previous regime.
What makes today different from the previous eight and a half months is that today is July 1st, which means the University of Cincinnati 2012-13 budget has been finalized. The key is that 100% of the athletic department’s portion has been molded and customized by Whit Babcock himself. While Whit will have to wait until the Big East’s upcoming television deal to truly expand the budget I have fully confidence that he will use what is available to him much more creatively than Mike Thomas. I mean the dude just bleeds innovative ideas.
Babcock has a spend-money-to-make-money mindset which seemed to elude the previous regime who preferred to spend time making excuses than solving problems. Furthermore, Whit Babcock is a young, charismatic person who wants to put his stamp in his first role leading an athletic department at a large university. Like I mentioned he’s gotten off to a good start and is moving UC athletics in the right direction. Just last month he revealed his first major facilities upgrades during his time at Cincinnati. Even though most of these changes are minor from a revenue-generation standpoint it’s clear Whit knows what he’s doing.
The two factors noticeably absent were renovations to 5/3rd Arena and Nippert Stadium. Both present their unique set of challenges but I think 5/3rd Arena will be addressed first, if not in tandem with Nippert Stadium. Essentially, Nippert won’t be renovated without The Shoe. What upgrades exactly? Well there have been talks about turning the arena, replacing the roll-away seating at 5/3rd with permanent seats, and adding more luxury boxes. All of these I 100% agree with but the price tag could be hefty. I believe that once the new Big East contract is signed Whit will focus all of his efforts on completing that project to pump even more money into the athletic department, no matter the cost.
I would also be curious to see what he does with the Armory, if anything. Once the home of UC basketball, this historic temple to Bearcats of old has gone into disarray in recent years. In my mind, I’d like this to become the permanent home of UC women’s basketball and volleyball as the smaller capacity would provide a better environment for these two sports. In conjunction with 5/3rd Arena adding permanent seating, the Armory could transition to become Cincinnati’s new multi-purpose arena and fulfill the needs The Shoe had done before.
Another task he will tackle is growing the Cincinnati fanbase and most importantly those that donate to Bearcats athletics. I haven’t seen the new UC budget yet but I fully expect to see more money available to the marketing department than ever. Be on the lookout for more advertisements around Cincinnati noting the Bearcats’ many football and basketball accomplishments over the next 12 months. Remember, he fully understands the benefit of spending money in the right areas and seeing a return on that investment when he begins asking for donations to put towards renovating 5/3rd Arena and Nippert Stadium. That’s the end game for Whit and the front office in UC’s athletic department right now and it all starts with the 2012-13 budget released today.