A 26-year veteran of college athletics administration, Thomas was named as the University of Cincinnati's Director of Athletics on October 20, 2005. Since taking the reins of the department with 18 teams and 560 student-athletes, Thomas has championed student-athlete development and significant external growth, while also authoring a detailed plan for competitive success in the BIG EAST Conference and on the national level.
In May of 2006, Thomas introduced his vision for success in all areas of Bearcats Athletics, aptly titled CATAPULT - an acronym for championships, academics, and together. Thomas's five-year vision for UC's 18-sport intercollegiate program was launched on the six-month anniversary of his hiring. The plan focuses on three main initiatives: winning BIG EAST team championships, high-level academic achievement, and a comprehensive integration with the UC Campus and Greater Cincinnati community.
In 2006, Thomas hired head football coach Brian Kelly and the football team made program history in the three following seasons by achieving a 34-6 record. In 2008, Kelly led UC to a school-record 11 wins along with the school's first BIG EAST Conference Championship and an appearance in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Both feats were repeated in 2009, with UC winning their second straight BIG EAST title and playing in the All State Sugar Bowl after finishing 12-0 and No. 3 in the final BCS rankings.
Thomas brought back a Bearcat when he hired former UC assistant Mick Cronin as head men's basketball coach in 2006. In five seasons Cronin has returned the program to national prominence and UC is the only Division I team to improve its win total over each of the last five seasons, going 26-9 in 2010-11 and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2004-05 season, beating Missouri en route to an exciting third-round loss to eventual 2011 national champion, UConn.
In the last three years, UC Athletics produced one NCAA individual champion, four BIG EAST team titles, 12 All-Americans, and 72 All BIG EAST honorees.
Thomas expanded and redefined academic services and the NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills program, resulting in UC being one of the most recognized schools in the 16-member BIG EAST for academic success, earning multiple BIG EAST Academic Excellence Awards. In 2009-10, UC garnered a league-high five BIG EAST Academic Excellence Awards for posting the highest GPA by team, while in 2010-11 two athletes earned the league's Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award in their respective sports. Also in 2010-11, UC football player John Goebel earned the prestigious American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, presented on the basis of academic credentials, athletic performance and community involvement, while women's basketball player Shelly Bellman earned the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.
The overall Academic Progress Rate (APR) of all Bearcats programs has increased during Thomas' tenure. In the most recent APR report, five UC athletic teams earned perfect APR scores of 1000, including men's basketball. Since Thomas came to UC, the number of BIG EAST Academic All-Stars has increased from 124 to 218. Since 2007, UC student-athletes have consistently achieved overall grade-point averages (GPA) of over 3.0, and boast a student-athlete graduation rate of 70%, 10 percent higher than the overall student body. In addition, over the past five years, the Graduate Success Rate (GSR) for student-athletes has increased from 66% to 77%.
UC's student-athletes have emerged as community leaders, and since 2006 their community service hours have grown from 1000 annual hours to over 5500.
On the external side, the University of Cincinnati is growing at a tremendous rate. Since his arrival Thomas has increased UC's athletic department budget by $7 million, a vital 20% increase, while simultaneously reducing the annual operating deficit by over $6 million.
UC established single-season attendance and revenue records for football in each of the past three years. Thomas has seen football attendance skyrocket, with season ticket package sales exploding by 277 percent since 2006 and resulting in record football revenues. With Nippert Stadium reaching an average capacity of 97 percent by 2010, UC has begun hosting select home football games at nearby Paul Brown Stadium, resulting in greatly increased attendance and thus revenues for the department.
In terms of donor development, membership in UCATS has increased by almost 300 percent during Thomas' tenure, and the department has raised $70 million since his arrival. Fundraising increases have been experienced in the annual fund, capital projects, endowments, and sports-specific giving.
In 2008, private funding was completely secured for the $15.5 million Sheakley Athletics Center, providing football and other UC athletic teams much needed additional practice space on two fields of 100 and 50 yards. The facility also serves as a competition venue for women's lacrosse. The complex converts to an indoor practice facility from November to March thanks to an air-supported structure inflated over the 100-yard field.
Under Thomas, UC Athletics Development instituted the Director's Society for UC Athletics, soliciting donors giving over $50,000 or more annually, and has increased George Smith Society membership ($13,500 or more annually) levels by 63%.
Beginning in the fall of 2008, all UC teams were outfitted exclusively in adidas footwear, uniforms, training apparel, and accessories as the department signed its first across-the-board shoe and apparel contract, doubling the value of the previous deal. The four-year contract aligns UC with other adidas marketing partners such as the NFL, MLS, and an 11-year exclusive all-league partnership with the NBA.
In 2008-09, Thomas revamped UC's multimedia rights partnership, reaching an agreement with IMG College for a new multimedia rights partnership, increasing overall revenues in this area by over $17 million.
Prior to coming to UC, Thomas spent five years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Akron and seven years as associate athletic director at the University of Virginia, an institution known for achieving impressive success both academically and athletically, before bringing that model to Akron. Virginia finished in the Top 25 in the Director's Cup in each year of Thomas' tenure there while at the same time finishing in the Top 10 nationally in student-athlete graduation rates.
Under Thomas' direction, Akron rose from last place to second among Mid-American Conference schools in the Director's Cup annual rankings. Simultaneously, Akron vaulted from last to second place in the MAC Academic Achievement Awards. Thomas increased the financial base of the Akron athletics program through increasing corporate sponsorship levels by 750 percent and boosted annual giving to athletics to its highest level in the school's history. Community support was rallied, with record increases shown in both football and basketball attendance.
During this time period, the Zips won their first MAC football championship and Thomas' hire of men's basketball coach Keith Dambrot has led to unparalleled success on the hardwood with Dambrot's program becoming the most successful in the MAC over the past six seasons. While at Akron, support services and facilities for academic support for student-athletes were significantly improved, resulting in jumps in grade point averages and graduation rates of UA student-athletes. During his Akron tenure, Thomas was a member of the MAC Infractions Committee and chaired the Women's Basketball Committee.
At Virginia, Thomas served as a member of the senior staff and was sport oversight for eight programs. He served as the department liaison for the $86 million renovation to UVA's football stadium and oversaw several other capital projects. In addition, Thomas served as the Chair of the Atlantic Coast Conference Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Committee and also served on the ACC Sportsmanship Committee.
Thomas has coordinated over $155 million in facility construction and renovation, including $25 million in capital improvements at Akron, including a new indoor fieldhouse and golf facility, a football practice complex, and a softball facility. He also spearheaded the new on-campus football stadium and was instrumental in the development and launching stages of the $61 million facility, which opened in September of 2009.
Recognized for his administrative acumen by his peers, Thomas presently serves on several national and conference committees, including the NCAA Division I Championship/Sports Management Cabinet (where he also serves as the NCAA men's basketball liaison to the cabinet and serves as a member of the cabinet's four-person Administrative Committee), and the NCAA Men's Basketball Issues Committee.
Thomas also previously chaired the BIG EAST Championship and Competition Committee and served as a member of the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet, the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Issues Committee, the NCAA Division I Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet, the NCAA Postseason Bowl Licensing Subcommittee, and the Division IA Athletics Director's Association Legislative Review Committee.
Twice during his career, Thomas has received distinction for his efforts and dedication as a director of athletics, garnering the General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletics Director Award in 2005 at Akron and then again in April of 2008 at Cincinnati. He has been recognized by the Cincinnati Sports Professionals Network as the 2009-10 Sports Executive of the Year.
Prior to his experience at Virginia, Thomas spent seven years at the University of Denver as assistant athletic director for internal operations, serving as chief financial officer and overseeing the departments of compliance, merchandising, and facilities. He began his athletic administration career at the University of Iowa as an administrative and operations intern.
Thomas, 51, received his B.S. degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University in 1983, and his M.S. degree in Athletic Administration from Western Illinois University in 1986. He and his wife, Jenifer, have four children: Vince, Joey, Mick, and Meredith.