I really don't think anyone was surprised at the departure of Mike Thomas with an opportunity to join the Big Ten and, according to him, be closer to family. I thought of it in the philosophy of one of my D1 college coaching friends: "Stay one step ahead of the posse."
Now I don't know if Mike Thomas was going to be on some kind of hot seat because whether you agree with him or not regarding Bob Huggins or Andy Kennedy, you can't deny his decisions to hire Brian Kelly and Mick Cronin as major contributions. I know some of you will argue the Mick decision but last I checked the program that was in the basement became an NCAA tournament team last year. He also increased football revenue and cut the operating budget. I know no one will ever be a perfect Athletic Director but I'll focus on the good.
So off the Illinois he goes hand in hand with a new chancellor who takes over in October. You can bet she will support her hire well into his tenure before giving up on him should something go awry. So that means Mike will have a nice honeymoon before being questioned in ernest, but he should do well. He has climbed the proverbial ladder to arrive at the mountain top, with a mountain size challenge. With Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State in football; plus the addition of Nebraska that is a tough ascension. In basketball the challenge is just as formidable. Recruiting and keeping Chicago area players will be key and if any of his coaches are relieved of their duties his success will rest heavily on tapping into the wealth of talent in his back yard.
On a personal note I had some positive experiences with Mike and his wife Jenny and wish them well. But now like most Bearcats, I am very interested in seeing who his permanent replacement will be and what their pedigree looks like. In my opinion, UC is not a second rate opportunity college wise. It's part of a BCS conference, a major market and is home to a solid sports legacy. Whoever inherits this position needs to win, raise money and graduate players on the surface; beneath it understand that Cincinnatians are a different breed. If you respect and understand that, you'll be fine.
That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.