UC Athletic Director Whit Babcock
During the nine days between the Oct. 24 announcement that Whit Babcock had accepted the offer to become the athletic director of the University of Cincinnati and the day he started on Nov. 2, West Virginia became the third Big East member to leave the conference. And just after the first month of his tenure was complete, Babcock had to deal with the aftermath of the Crosstown Shootout fiasco. It’s safe to say Babcock hit the ground running with the Bearcats.
The 41-year-old Babcock has gotten a little more settled into his chair at the Lindner Center, but he’s still waiting for his wife and three sons to move to Cincinnati at the end of March. CityBeat recently caught up with Babcock to discuss UC’s athletic future.
CityBeat: With this conference shuffle, you’ve seen it from both ends — first you had schools leaving the Big 12, then you were wooed (as executive associate athletic director at Missouri) and then you left and now you’re on the side of a school staying behind — is this ever going to stop?
: You know, I think we’re close to the end. I hope we’re at the end. Even when I say at the end, I think that’s a temporary situation. Temporary could be 10-15 years, but people say, ‘Why is this happening?’ and all that. But if you look back at it, there used to be a Great Midwest Conference, there used to be the Metro Conference, there was no Conference USA. It seems to go in cycles, but for the state of intercollegiate athletics, I hope it’s over for a while.
CB: How do you feel about using Paul Brown Stadium for football games?
: I get asked that a lot — it’s a wonderful facility with a lot of modern amenities, but I’m of the philosophy that you play home games on your campus. So I want to play as many as I can right outside my window here. I think Nippert Stadium provides one of the best home-field advantages in the country — it’s in the heart of our campus and it’s what college football is all about. ... That’s not to say we’ll never go back to Paul Brown — and those people were fine to us — but I think you play college football on your campus.
CB: We talked a little about football scheduling, which is usually done more at the AD level, but is there a concern with basketball scheduling?
: The AD can be involved as much or as little as you want. Mick and I have talked about that. We’re on the same page there. ... We’ve talked about bringing more marquee opponents here and doing a little more on that front. Certainly, there haven’t been any demands issued. We’ve had a number of discussions there and we’re on the same page. I think our fans can expect to see a little upgrade there in our non-conference play. Having said that, we don’t take anyone for granted. You see what happens when you don’t play your best against Marshall and Presbyterian.
CB: One of the challenges you’ve had was the Shootout and its aftermath. There’s been talk about its future — there were even reports that said it would not be continued. Where does it stand and is there an actual possibility that the Shootout wouldn’t continue?
: Yeah, there’s a possibility, certainly. Because when there’s two schools involved, all it takes is one to not want to play and you’re not going to play.
CB: Do you want to play?
: That’s a good question. I’ll respect the decision of our president, how about that? But do I think it can be good for Cincinnati? Absolutely. But just like my counterpart at Xavier, Mike Bobinski, said, if we play, the culture of that game has to change.
CB: How do you control that? You talk about a culture change — both you and Mike have said this and I believe you both — but how do two guys in suits do that?
: You’re absolutely right. I hope that if we play that game, the people of Cincinnati will realize that if it doesn’t go right again, it definitely won’t be played. I hope there’s some positive peer pressure in that regard. But we’ll have more of a campaign there, from a sportsmanship initiative and a student initiative and a lot of things within the community. And, quite frankly, you’ve probably got to overload it with security. If that game’s played again, from the Cincinnati and Xavier perspective, the spotlight of the country will be on the game the next time it’s being played. How are we going to represent our schools and the city of Cincinnati? And we have to take that seriously.