Cincinnati Bearcats: Whit Babcock leaves to take AD job at Virginia Tech

Whit Babcock, who led the University of Cincinnati athletic department since October 2011, has quit to become the new AD at Virginia Tech, UC confirmed Friday night.

Babcock, a Virginia native, said going home is "a dream come true." Babcock received a five-year contract starting March 1.

Babcock thanked the UC community in a statement, saying it “has been so wonderful to me and my family. I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the students, staff, coaches, and administration there.

“However, working for Virginia Tech is a unique and special opportunity . . . an opportunity to come home to Virginia and become part of the Hokie family is truly a dream come true," he said.

UC president Santa Ono released this statement:

“Whit has done an outstanding job here at UC, and I know he will continue his success as he returns to his native state of Virginia. I wish all the best to him, his wife Kelly and their three sons as they embark on this new chapter.”

Ono said a national search for a new AD would start immediately.

“Given our winning tradition within athletics and the upward trajectory of the university, I know we will recruit an outstanding permanent leader who will take us to even greater heights," Ono said.

Ono named Desiree Reed-Francois as interim AD, making her the first Hispanic female director of athletics in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. Reed-Francois joined UC in March 2013 as Senior Associate Director of Athletics and the Senior Woman Administrator.

“I want to thank Desiree for stepping up during this transition. She is a gifted, highly accomplished leader who has my full confidence,” Ono said.

RELATED: Watch Bobcock, Ono and Reed-Francois at Saturday news conference

Babcock moves up to the Atlantic Coast Conference from UC’s uncertain future in the American Athletic Conference. UC was left out of top five conferences when the old Big East imploded in the recent major conference shuffle.

Babcock's successor will face the challenge of getting UC into the ACC or Big 12 and finding a suitable place to play its basketball games.

Fifth Third Arena must be renovated or replaced. Another option is moving games downtown to US Bank Arena - temporarily if not permanently.

Babcock's credits at UC include:

> Hiring Tommy Tuberville to coach the football team after Butch Jones left for Tennessee;

> Starting an $86 million renovation and expansion of Nippert Stadium;

> Reinstating and enhancing scholarship funding to Olympic sports;

> Adding men's indoor track and field.

The $15 million Sheakley Athletics Center opened as a football practice facility and lacrosse field on Babcock's watch.

“We are very pleased to welcome Whit back to Virginia,” Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. “He has substantial experience managing large business enterprises and shown the ability to identify and attract talented coaches and staff. We are also impressed with his ability to engage and energize the fan base. We are extremely pleased to garner someone with his well-rounded experiences and talent.”

Babcock replaces Jim Weaver, who retired at the end of year because of health concerns.

Babcock was born in Lynchburg, Va., and grew up in Harrisonsburg. He played baseball at James Madison University and graduated in 1992. He also received a master’s degree in sports management from West Virginia in 1996.

Virginia Tech will introduce Babcock at a news conference next week.

Before coming to UC,  Babcock served as executive associate athletic director at Missouri. He previously served in athletic fundraising and marketing leadership roles at West Virginia, Auburn and James Madison.

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