Posted by Tom Fornelli
On Wednesday afternoon the Illinois athletic department tweeted that it would be making an announcement about its new athletic director. Well, you no longer need to wait for that announcement to find out what it is, as The News-Gazette is reporting that Illinois will be naming Cincinnati athletic director Mike Thomas to replace Ron Guenther in Champaign.
Thomas has been the athletic director at Cincinnati since 2005, and in that time he's seen a marked improvement to the school's football program. At the time Cincinnati was considered a basketball school thanks to the success the men's program had under Bob Huggins, but after Thomas brought in current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, the football program took off.
When you look at the situation at Illinois right now, it's very similar to what was taking place at Cincinnati at the time of Thomas' hiring. It's a basketball school that has had some success from time to time in football, but nothing sustainable. It could be that Illinois would like to see some improvement in the football program, as it has put money into renovating Memorial Stadium recently.
It may also mean that the seat head coach Ron Zook sits on may be hotter than it already has been for much of his time in Champaign, as Thomas may be on the hunt for his next Brian Kelly.