Whit Babcock was formally announced as the new UC AD today. Following the jump is the transcript of his press conference. It’s from Go Bearcats. Since none of us watching the stream could see it, this is the next best thing. The man, Paul Dehner, conducted an interview with Whit on Saturday. Best of luck, Whit Babcock.
UC Athletic Director
Opening Comments …
“Thank you, Dr. Williams and Bob (Arkeilpane) for the extremely kind introduction. It is my pleasure and honor to be here at the University of Cincinnati to accept your job as the director of athletics. President Williams, who was a key reason in my interest in the position, his passion, his leadership, upbringing, love of students, his strategic planning, and his desire to make the University of Cincinnati a destination job drew me instantly. And I really look forward to working for him and being a part of the community here. Before I go too much farther, I’d like to introduce my family to the Bearcat family. My family and my faith in God are the two anchors that keep me grounded. In this job you have a lot of people and things that are pulling at you. A lot of constituents that are often competing with each and I think it’s crucial to have anchors in your life that keep you grounded and from which you can build your foundation on. They are my faith and my family.
“My comments will be brief and they will cover the three values that will define the culture for the University of Cincinnati Athletic Department.
“First is a commitment to comprehensive excellence. Excellence is defined as, ‘To rise up and surpass,’ That will be the mission here in the athletic department. We will strive for and achieve excellence in the classroom and in competition. We will support the academic mission of the university whole heartedly. And competitively, we will respect our opponents, but we will fear no one. We will go toe to toe with anyone in the country and we will expect to win and we will expect to win championships.
“Secondly, we will center our focus on preparing the student-athlete for life. I am the son of a coach and the product of the student-athlete experience. And I believe tremendously in that. As a student-athlete, you learn how to deal with stress, failure, time commitment, dealing with people from other cultures and diverse backgrounds, commitment to academic excellence and lifelong fitness. Our centering focus on the student-athlete will include, first and foremost, the safety, health and well being of our student-athletes. Me, personally, Dr. Williams and our entire department are entrusted with someone’s son or daughter. And as a father, I know how important that is. So, safety, health and wellbeing of our student-athletes will be paramount. We will focus on the academic success of our student-athletes and their academic achievements. We will focus on the social responsibility of our student athletes. We expect them to be role models and ambassadors. It is a privilege to be a student-athlete at the University of Cincinnati. And a slogan from my boss at the University of Missouri was, ‘The logo never comes off.’ So for our student-athletes, that logo never comes off when they’re in season or out of season, when they are in the community in the evening and when they go home for the holidays. And they can wear it with honor. We will focus on the competitive success of our student-athletes as well. They will be coached and trained by the best. They come to UC to compete and be successful. We will win with class, and lose with dignity.
“My third priority or value that will define our mission is that we will engage our community. We will engage the campus community, the Cincinnati community, the Ohio community and beyond. It’s about coming together as one team, under one flag, under one banner and as one family. Simply put, we will invite our community into a relationship with us. We will invite our students, faculty, staff, fans, alumni and donors to get involved with us in a way that is meaningful to them. We will ask them to invest. There is a number of ways to invest, but we will ask them to invest. Some will want to invest in academics and scholarships for our student-athletes. Some will want to invest in our social responsibility and community initiatives and in our development of well-rounded student-athletes. Some will want to support our competitive excellence. We will engage them all and have arms wide enough to welcome them all.
“So in summary, our three priorities or values that will guide our mission in the department of athletics are: we will have a commitment to comprehensive excellence in all that we do; we will center our focus on the student-athlete and preparing champions for life; and we will engage our community. Those will define our mission moving forward.
“In closing, I certainly want to pay tribute and recognize Mike Thomas for the work he did here and the groundwork he laid here. I traded messages with Mike and I certainly want to mention him. I, too, want to mention Bob Arkeilpane. I’m sure the job as interim A.D. at a critical time was a difficult job, but one I know he was up for the challenge of. So, thank you for carrying the torch. I also want to recognize my Mizzou guests. You’ve heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It took all 192 staff members at Missouri to help grow me and develop me to be able to stand behind the podium today. In particular, I want to thank Mike Alden, who from the day I arrived there said, ‘I’m going to put you in my chair and put more on you so that you’ll be over prepared for your first job as an athletic director.’ He gave me grey hair and taught me a tremendous amount, Mike. And, I’m indebted to you forever.
“I’d also like to congratulate our nationally-ranked football team on their win over South Florida. On an ESPN app., I went back and watched the highlights. The heart that they showed and the calm confidence of the coaching staff – great victory. Also, volleyball won this weekend, sweeping West Virginia 3-0. That was one I enjoyed hearing. That long win streak is A+. So congratulations. Our women’s swimming program beat Xavier and I know that’s pretty important in this neck of the woods. Congratulations to those three.
“Kelly and I and the boys are thrilled to be here. We look forward to getting through this transition and getting up and running. Lastly, I’d like to thank President Williams again and the Board of Trustees for this opportunity.
What are the biggest challenges UC faces in its athletic department?
“For me personally, I think it’s just getting the lay of the land, broad-based across the board. Certainly, we’re not going to rush in. You know the saying, ‘Fools rush in,’ but I will absolutely operate with a sense of urgency and have some strategies in place to do that. But getting the lay of the land, across the board, and obviously the conference realignment issue, generating revenue and how we’ll supplement our student-athletes and programs. But there are a lot of key aspects across the board.”
Do you come into this job committed to staying in the BIG EAST or are you open minded about where UC could end up?
“First and foremost, we need to be committed to the BIG EAST. I believe you need to have loyalty there. But I do know from being involved in conference expansion that the two things we’re looking for are trust and stability. So that trust and stability in the BIG EAST will be something we will aspire to.”
You mentioned fan investment into the program is a huge point. How does that relate to investing in facilities and did President Williams share his viewpoints on facilities?
“We absolutely talked about it. We talked about a capital campaign. Rather than just jump into one facility or the other, we prefer to look at it from a master planning standpoint and just across the board. Certainly that’s something we’ll look at. At least in the realm of facilities, that is something that you can never stand pat on. There’s a saying, these guys (the Missouri dignitaries in attendance) will chuckle because we use it our brochures, it’s a Little Rogers quote that says, ‘Even if you’re on the right track, if you stand still, you’ll get run over.’ So I believe in continuing facility enhancements with strategic and fiscal responsibility.”
Missouri is right in the middle of the conference realignment issue. Has that given you any unique insight to the issues that Cincinnati is facing?
“Yeah, absolutely. I hope so. It’s actually the third time I’ve been near it or around it. At West Virginia, when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left; that was an interesting time. And then for the past two years, actually, at Missouri. President Williams and I have talked a lot. I’ve kept my eye on the BIG EAST, but obviously he’s much more engaged than I was. But we’ve shared thoughts back and forth on the BIG EAST and the knowledge base that I have from the Big 12.”
Can you talk about your interaction and relationship you had with UC football head coach Butch Jones from your time together at West Virginia?
“I think the world of Butch. I think he’s one of the top football coaches in the country. We first worked together at West Virginia I believe in 2006, just don’t hold me to that. He was the wide receivers coach and our development office was right down the hall. I remember when Butch first got there, our coaching staff would come out of meetings and was like, ‘This guy is special.’ Even the head coach at that time, Rich Rodriguez, and all of them said that he was a rising star. So I’ve kept in touch with Butch. We talked some at the beginning of the process. Part of my attraction to the job was because of Butch Jones and I think the world of him.”
What was it about UC that made you interested in the job?
“Wow, there are so many to it. I believe it’s the upward trajectory of the academics and the athletics. I really enjoy being a part of things on the rise and jumping in and helping to build it. If there is any one reason, it’s my boss, President Williams. That upward trajectory and the chance to be a part of something special and build it; I’d have to say that was it.”