Over the next several weeks, UC President Santa Ono, the school’s board of trustees, and the search firm Cincinnati will be hiring will have their work cut out for them replacing Whit Babcock. The laundry list of contributions the man gave to UC is endless. Babcock’s replacement will have to be perfect to ensure that everything that he accomplished here won’t go up in smoke.
I’m sure we’ll see quite a few names dropped between now and when the new AD is ultimately hired but here are a few people I would take a hard look at.
Kevin Miller - Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director, Louisville
Miller’s resume is as impressive as his title. He’s been at Louisville for 26 years, overseeing everything from facilities management to the department’s finances. Miller has seemingly done it all at Louisville serving as what appears to be Tom Jurich’s right hand man. He also has likely made several connections around the NCAA serving on several steering committees and has experience working with the local media. If UC wanted to hire from one of the best and fastest growing athletic departments in college athletics, Miller would be my #1 pick.
Tim Pernetti - Former Athletic Director, Rutgers (h/t @tacunningham1 for the idea)
Under his watchful eye, Rutgers expanded their football stadium immensely and saw several investments across athletics in general. The biggest draw with Pernetti is that he has experience marketing his school to more prestigious conferences and getting an invitation. It’s probably a little unrealistic to expect the same for Pernetti at UC but just the fact that he has the roadmap in hand would only benefit Bearcats athletics. But he carries some baggage with him, i.e. the “former” tag next to his title. Pernetti was fired from Rutgers due to essentially turning a blind eye to head basketball coach Mike Rice’s abuse of his players during practice. That sort of thing would never happen at Cincinnati with Mike Cronin but the fact that Pernetti let that happen under his watch is a bit concerning.
Mike O’Brien - Athletic Director, Toledo
For the last decade or so, the Toledo AD has spearheaded five major athletic related construction projects for the Rockets. O’Brien’s claim to fame is a $30 million athletics complex that was easily the best in the MAC and rivaled many BCS programs. He also oversaw the renovation of Savage Arena, the Rockets’ basketball venue. In essence, this is a guy who puts a vision in place, gets the people around him excited about his plans, then raises the money to make it a reality. If Cincinnati wants to tackle the Fifth Third Arena problem, O’Brien might be the right person to lead it.
Rick Villareal - Athletic Director, North Texas
Another facilities and fundraising guru, the North Texas athletic director has overhauled the Mean Green’s facilities in an attempt to upgrade their conference (in a similar manner UC is in now). UNT of course made that leap this past season moving from the Sun Belt to Conference-USA. Villareal’s fundraising experience dates back to his days at Southern Miss where he orchestrated a “Circle of Champions” program that required all members to pledge at least $100,000. This is very similar to Cincinnati’s George Smith Society. Additionally Villareal appears to have connections at such major athletic departments as TCU and LSU.
Omar Banks - Senior Associate Athletic Director/CFO, UC
If Cincinnati were to hire from within, Omar Banks would probably be my pick. He has a nice track record of maintaining budgets, managing personnel, and overall ensuring all of the inner workings of the athletic department are running smoothly. The only concern I have is his lack of experience schmoozing donors. He seems to do a nice job maintaining a status quo but I’m not sure how well he would do pumping up the fans or the people who give money to the department.