University of Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas will be the featured speaker at the 23rd annual Springfield Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.
Thomas was named Illinois' 18th athletic director Aug. 10, 2011, to succeed Ron Guenher. He came to Champaign after six successful years as the director of athletics at Cincinnati. He's in his 27th year of college athletic administration.
In his first year at Illinois, Thomas directed Fighting Illini teams that won a national championship in men's gymnastics and Big Ten titles in women's soccer, men's gymnastics, men's tennis and men's golf. The Illini also produced six NCAA individual champions and 24 All-Americans in a wide range of sports. Illinois finished 21st in the final Learfield Director's Cup standings, just one spot behind the school's highest all-time finish.
Prior to his move to Illinois, Thomas was A.D. at Cincinnati from 2005-11, where he directed the school's launch into the Big East Conference and earned several Big East championships as well as multiple Big East academic excellence awards.
In 2006, Thomas hired Brian Kelly as the Bearcats' head football coach, and Cincinnati made program history in the three following seasons by achieving a 34-6 record. In 2008, Kelly led Cincinnati 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 Cincinnati winning its second-straight Big East title and playing in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after finishing 12-0 and No. 3 in the final BCS rankings. After Kelly left for Notre Dame, Thomas hired Butch Jones, who has gone on to ensure Cincinnati's dominance on the conference scene, sharing in a Big East football title in 2011.
Thomas also brought in Mick Cronin to coach the Bearcats' basketball team in 2006, and in five seasons, Cronin returned the program to national prominence. Cincinnati was the only Division I team to improve its win total over each of he five seasons from 2007-11.
Prior to taking the athletic director position at Cincinnati, Thomas spent five years as A.D. at Akron, seven years at Denver as assistant athletic director for internal operations. He began his athletic administration career at Iowa as an administrative and operations intern.
Thomas won the General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletics Director Award in 2005 at Akron and then again in April 2008 at Cincinnati. He has been recognized by the Cincinnati Sports Professionals Network as the 2009-10 Sports Executive of the Year.
He received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Western Illinois in 1986. He and his wife, Jenifer, have four children: Vince, Joey, Mick and Meredith.