CINCINNATI - Former Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn takes over at Cincinnati with one overriding priority: Get the Bearcats into a better conference.
Bohn was hired Thursday to try to do for the Bearcats what he did during his eight years in Colorado. Bohn led the Buffaloes from the Big 12 to the Pac-12, and Cincinnati hopes his experience in conference jumping can be put to use.
"One of his main accomplishments in eight years there, what was most talked about among his accomplishments was his ability to lead that university into the Pac-12 Conference," President Santa J. Ono said while introducing Bohn.
Bohn resigned at Colorado last May when the administration decided to go in a different direction. Colorado hired former Texas Rangers executive Rick George.
Cincinnati's job opened when Whit Babcock left for Virginia Tech on Jan. 24.
The Bearcats have successful football and basketball programs, but got left behind when the Big East broke up. They tried to join the ACC, but were rebuffed. They had to settle for the new American Athletic Conference, which is in flux with Louisville leaving for the ACC after this season.
Bohn was hired shortly before the seventh-ranked Bearcats hosted No. 22 Connecticut on Thursday night, a matchup of schools that tried to get into the ACC but failed. With conference realignment settled for now, the Bearcats will have to bide their time and try to make themselves a more attractive option when the next round of shuffling occurs.
"Obviously, that's the issue, and the opportunity," Bohn said. "We talked a great deal about it. The trustees were very clear about their commitment and trying to help.
"We talked at length about it and understand the landscape. I believe I've got a good sense of what's going on around the country. I lived it in the move to the Pac-12."
Cincinnati has started a one-year, $86 million renovation to its on-campus Nippert Stadium, bringing the football stadium's capacity to 40,000. It has to figure out something to do with its basketball facility, which has thousands of empty seats even though the Bearcats have one of the nation's best teams. They have yet to sell out the 13,176-seat arena for a game — they've attracted 10,000 fans only three times this season.
Bohn needs to translate the teams' success into more support.
"We certainly want to take advantage of the momentum that the institution currently has," he said.
The following is a preview story by WCPO staff:
CINCINNATI - There will be some irony if the University of Cincinnati names Mike Bohn as its new athletic director Thursday, as expected.
Two years ago, Bohn tried to hire UC football coach Butch Jones when Bohn was athletic director at Colorado.
Bohn was sure Jones would take the job, and the word leaked to some Colorado media. But Jones turned down Bohn’s offer and accepted Tennessee’s instead.
UC was schedule to introduced its new AD at a 5 p.m. news conference. President Santa Ono had promised to move fast to replace Whit Babcock, who quit Jan. 24 to take the AD job at Virginia Tech.
Who knows: If Jones had gone to Colorado and turned around the Buffaloes football program, Bohn might still be working there in the city where he was a high school sports star. But Bohn was forced out at Colorado last May after eight years on the job.
Bohn’s major achievement at Colorado was leading the Buffaloes from the Big 12 Conference into the Pac 12 in 2011. Announced in 2010, it was one of the early moves, along with Nebraska’s switch to the Big Ten, that set off a chain reaction of conference realignments.
In the fallout, UC was left out of the five major conferences, and the Bearcats and other homeless programs formed the American Athletic Conference last year.
At UC, the new AD’s biggest and most important challenge will be getting the Bearcats into one of the five majors, with the best chances being the Big 12 or the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Bohn’s ouster at Colorado came as a surprise, the Denver Post reported at the time. But many alums blamed Bohn for the collapse of the Colorado football program after coach Gary Burnett was forced out in 2005, eight months after Bohn became AD.
Barnett had been caught in a sordid scandal before Bohn arrived. The coach allegedly enticed recruits with sex and alcohol during recruiting visits. Then he made dismissive comments about a female placekicker who claimed she had been raped by a teammate.
After serving a suspension in 2004, Barnett continued as coach in 2005, leading the Buffaloes to a 7–2 start. But he was forced to resign that December.
In 2007, the NCAA put Colorado’s football program on two years’ probation as a result of recruiting violations under Barnett.
Colorado, which won the AP national championship in 1990, hasn’t had a winning football season since Barnett left.
There were indications of simmering tensions between Bohn and university officials in the months before Bohn's departure, the Post reported.
In April 2012, Bohn may have jumped the gun when he told reporters
that the athletic department would announce a major upgrade to its facilities. Several months later, the university said it would conduct feasibility studies to look at the possibility. Ten months after Bohn’s announcement, the school officially committed to a $170 million proposal for the work.
Just a few weeks before Bohn's ouster, the university announced that the fundraising department, the CU Foundation, which had been separate from the university, would move under the university umbrella. While the changes would have given more responsibility to Bohn, some people felt that the athletic department was already underperforming, the Post reported.
Before starting at Colorado in 2005, Bohn was the AD at San Diego State for 18 months and at the University of Idaho for five years. He previously worked on the athletic department staffs at the Air Force Academy (1984-92) and Colorado State (1996-98). He also worked for the College Football Association.
Bohn left Boulder out of high school and played baseball at the University of Kansas, graduating in 1983. He earned a master's degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University in 1984 and served as a graduate assistant football coach for the Bobcats.
Bohn, 53, was born in Hinsdale, Ill., but his family moved to Colorado when he was 1.