Thomas offers a winning vision
Titles in every sport the goal for his plan
BY BILL KOCH | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The University of Cincinnati will win a Big East Conference championship in every sport within the next five years.
That's the goal of athletic director Mike Thomas in his vision for the department that he shared with his coaches and staff this week. He calls his vision "Cat-apult," which he defines as "a device for launching UC athletics to the top of the Big East a high rate of speed."
Winning a Big East title in every sport during the next five years would be quite an achievement for an athletic program that failed to win any in a team sport during its first year in the league.
But Thomas says he believes in setting goals high.
"We can't be content with being in the Big East Conference," Thomas said. "We've got to go there to win championships."
Thomas, who completed his first six months on the job Thursday, said he understands that setting goals and coming up with a plan - and the resources to implement it - are two different things.
"You've got to have resources commensurate with getting there," he said.
UC just completed Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village - a massive, $109-million facilities construction project - but Thomas said that doesn't mean the school is satisfied with its facilities for the long-term.
He listed renovation of Fifth Third Arena and Nippert Stadium to maximize production of "auxiliary revenues," in concessions, merchandising and luxury suites, as well as the construction of an indoor practice facility, as long-range objectives
"There are initial discussions in a very serious way to really take a close look at Fifth Third Arena and how we could make that more basketball-friendly and more accommodating to our fans," Thomas said. "What that means at the end of the day hasn't been defined yet, but absolutely that has to be looked at.
"On the other side of that, you sit there and say this is what we need to do, this is what it's going to cost, now how do you weigh that against building a new facility? I don't know what all the pieces would be to renovate Fifth Third and what that price tag would be."
Thomas said there's a possibility that if a new arena is built, Fifth Third could be used for another purpose, perhaps as an indoor football practice facility.
Nippert Stadium, he said, needs to be upgraded with a press box that would include luxury suites, as well as other improvements.
"We need to look at the amenities, the concession stands, the restrooms and the traffic patterns," he said.
Before the school moves forward on any of those projects, Thomas said, it needs to determine if it's possible to raise the money to pay for them.
"Trying to determine if the capacity is there will determine if we move forward with some of these projects," Thomas said.
"Knowing that we're very dependent on external resources, one of our primary focuses has to be spending a lot of time with our external constituents who can help us reach those goals."
Another goal is for UC to find ways to produce more revenue on its own. With its $26 million budget, the school ranks seventh among the eight Big East schools that play Division I football.
"People always want to knock on the money givers' doors and want a bigger slice of the pie," Thomas said. "What I tell our people is that we need to figure out how to bake our own pies."