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New AD Whit Babcock talks priorities and people

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The University of Cincinnati filled the athletic director position Saturday morning. In one of the most uncertain times in all of college athletics, President Gregory Williams found Whit Babcock, a man with a long history of excelling in uncertain situations.

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Babcock currently is in his fifth year as the executive associate director at the University of Missouri. So, yeah, he's heard about this conference realignment stuff. He also worked at West Virginia when Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami bolted for the ACC.

The new AD wouldn't comment specifically on anything involving conference realignment, but dealing with it represents familiar territory for him.

"I certainly look forward to working with President Williams and I believe in his leadership," Babcock said.

With a long history in development and fundraising he also arrives as somebody who helped raise private funding 200 percent while at West Virginia.

In his first interview with GoBearcats.com this morning, he outlined his three starting points in taking over the program.

"I think we've got to hire and retain quality people and coaches," Babcock said. "We've got to build and renovate facilities to recruit them in and train them in. That is something we can't stand pat on is facilities. Thirdly, you need the financial resources and this is the most important one to provide scholarship assistance and academic assistance and graduate your kids and get them started in life there."

Before joining Missouri, Babcock was assistant athletic director and executive director of development for West Virginia University. He also worked at Auburn University as assistant athletic director for development. At Missouri, Babcock has achieved all-time highs in donor participation, fundraising, season ticket sales, and department-wide revenue generation.

A former collegiate athlete, Babcock lettered for the James Madison University Baseball program, serving as team captain during his senior campaign. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1992 from JMU and later received a master's degree in sport management from West Virginia University in 1996.

"Whit comes highly recommended as an energetic leader and rising star in collegiate sports," Williams said.  

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Here is the entire Q&A with Babcock to get more insight into the views of the new AD and how he plans on tackling the university's issues.

Paul Dehner Jr.: How did the courtship go and has being an AD always sort of been your dream job?

Whit Babcock: The courtship was great. It was run by President Williams and very professional and very confidential and just well done. I was very pleased with that. As far as AD, dream job, so to speak, I have tried to be selective about the jobs I have looked at. I am not so much hung up on just having AD by my name but I really wanted it to be at the right school. When I saw Cincinnati come open I was excited by it. I have some familiarity with the Big East conference and I have been on your campus. There are so many positives to Cincinnati and I really feel like it has become a destination school for students and student athletes. And a destination school for coaches and administrators. I just think there are so many positives to it so I was so excited when the job came open. I know Mike Thomas has laid some great groundwork there and I look forward to working with all you guys to build it and keep it moving in the right direction.

PDJ: What are the characteristics of your ideal athletic department?

WB: Good people.

PDJ: It all starts there ...

WB: It does, and I have heard the conversations of would you rather have good people or good funding. I'd rather have both. But I believe good people trumps funding. But we got to work on the funding part, too, there. And just get the resources there to do three primary things. I think we've got to hire and retain quality people and coaches. We've got to build and renovate facilities to recruit them in and train them in. That is something we can't stand pat on is facilities. Thirdly, you need the financial resources and this is the most important one to provide scholarship assistance and academic assistance and graduate your kids and get them started in life there. We like to say here we prepare champions for life. The financial resources, that is a big part of what we want to do. But the simplest answer to your question is I want to be around good people with passion and energy and integrity.

PDJ: You've spent a lot of time in development coming up and raised private giving 200 percent at West Virginia, what is the key to making that happen?

WB: It's more than me, it's a staff and that goes back to the good people part. I believe that if you can build good relationships with people, with your donors and fan base and show them a need and a vision by how their gift can impact the student athlete and the athletic department and the school as a whole, I think then you've got lightning in a bottle there. To just go door-to-door and knock on doors and ask for money that is not how it works. If we can build a vision and build a relationship and show people a need and show them how we are going to spend their money wisely then I think you can really get going.

PDJ: You see a similarity to UC compared to other places you have been at all? Or is it pretty unique?

WB: That's a great question, at least for me it is relatively unique in this way, and my dad was a baseball coach and I grew up in the home of a successful Division I head baseball coach. I've always lived in a college town. I have never lived in one that is a city -- a larger city. So, Cincinnati is unique to me personally from that perspective. The part of it I liked was, even though it is in the city, when you are on campus you know you are on campus. It's not a city campus where you are just, here's a business building, here's a store and now here's a classroom. I still have that on-campus feel. And I really like how your sports park is all there together. So, I have been on campus a few times and really enjoyed it.

PDJ: You couldn't have been more in the middle of this realignment mess sitting there at Missouri, because of your unique position there, feel like you can come in immediately and help steer UC through those unstable waters?

WB: Wow, if there is somebody out there that claims that they are a conference expansion expert I would like to know who it is. I don't know that that person exists. It would probably be premature for me to comment on that. I certainly look forward to working with President Williams and I believe in his leadership. So much of it is out of your control and there is so much speculation out there, I guess if there is any one thing with our fan base it is I know it is frustrating -- for administrators to -- but there is so much out of your control and so much speculation, you just don't want to get caught up in responding to every recent rumor or where Cincinnati is mentioned or what is going to happen to the Big East. But I absolutely believe in President Wiliams' leadership and I look forward to getting up there Monday and he and I will talk before then, too. And I have kept an eye on the Big East while I've been here. I think he and I can work together, but I believe in his leadership but it would be a little premature for me to comment on conference expansion there.

PDJ: We hear about it endlessly here, but I can only imagine what it must be like for you guys down there ...

WB: We went through it last year, too. When Missouri was rumored with the Big Ten and Nebraska and Colorado left for different places. I was at West Virginia, too, when Boston College and Miami, so this is my third go-round and every time is different. It does, it fully immerses you. You got to have good people around you to handle the day-to-day business of the athletic department, too.

PDJ: It may be hard to start thinking about this already, but what do you view as your top priority?

WB: Obviously, it is leadership of running the enterprise of athletics. I think it's a broad-based leadership component there. Certainly I believe in looking at what can we do financially and revenue generation just to provide those opportunities and our opportunities to grow. That is a lot more broad than just going in and raising prices. I don't count that as a -- that's not the way to answer. We may ultimately have to do that in some areas, but that doesn't count to me as how we generate revenue. So I think the creative revenue generation and just drilling down on all the areas that create financial resources for UC. Fundraising is a big component of it. But it's broader than that.

PDJ: Saw you were at least in the initial stages of getting an online network going at Missouri?

WB: It's very cool. We are working on launching a digital network. And pushing out a lot of content, exclusive content, the vast majority of it free and really pushing it out to iPads and phones and connected TV. I feel like it is the way things are going. So, that's something we would evaluate there at Cincinnati.

I think we have a lot of valuable content there from Olympic sports to behind-the-scenes footage to big plays and other things. Even some classic games, taking some old great games of UC, some of the Oscar Robertson stuff and digitize it. There are just a lot of things you can do with it.

PDJ: What are you most looking forward to?

WB: Getting started. I tell you I got a few legal pads here I am looking at. Just getting up there and meeting the coaches, the student-athletes and just getting started. My goal is to get up there and running as soon as possible. I'm happy to be a part of the Cincinnati family.

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