Arriving at Virginia Tech in his career prime and with Bowl Subdivision athletic director experience, Whit Babcock fits the profile of most recent AD hires in the ACC. But he differs from his Hokies predecessors in two significant ways.
First, at 43 Babcock is the school’s youngest athletic director since 37-year-old Dutch Baughman held the position for six fleeting months in 1987. He is also the first of Tech’s 11 full-time ADs – the position dates to 1908 -- without a football coaching background.
The football experiences of the Hokies’ five most recent directors -- Frank Moseley, Bill Dooley, Baughman, Dave Braine and Jim Weaver -- were well-known. Many thanks to Dave Smith, Tech’s sports information director, for unearthing bios on pioneering ADs R.M. Brown, B.B. Bocock, L.W. Reiss, Sally Miles and W.L. Younger.
Virginia Tech will introduce Babcock at a 12:15 p.m., news conference Wednesday that will be streamed online at Hokiesports.com. So here’s a short Babcock primer to hold you over until then.
I’d planned to post this earlier, but the blizzard in our little corner of paradise prompted Comrade Wood and I to drive west for a few hours Tuesday evening so we could arrive in Blacksburg on Wednesday on time and in one piece.
Of the 11 athletic directors hired at current ACC schools in the last seven years, Babcock is the eighth with FBS experience in the big chair.
North Carolina State’s Debbie Yow served previously at Maryland; Clemson’s Dan Radakovich at Georgia Tech; Boston College’s Brad Bates at Miami of Ohio; Pittsburgh’s Steve Pederson at Nebraska and, yes, Pitt; Maryland’s Kevin Anderson at Army; Duke’s Kevin White at Notre Dame, Arizona State and Tulane; Georgia Tech’s Mike Bobinski at Akron, and North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham at Tulsa and Ball State.
The exceptions: Miami’s Blake James was promoted internally; Florida State’s Stan Wilcox was a Duke associate AD, and Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick was a practicing attorney.
A first baseman and occasional pitcher at James Madison University in his hometown of Harrisonburg -- here's guessing he took harder classes there than I did 11 years earlier -- Babcock, class of '92, worked in administration at JMU, Auburn, West Virginia and Missouri before landing the Cincinnati gig in October 2011.
Shortly thereafter, in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Bill Koch, Babcock outlined an AD’s job.
“If I have to break it down,” he said, “the simplest leadership role of an athletic director boils down to character and competence. If I prove to have character in what I say and I shoot people straight and I'm the same publicly as I am privately, I believe that's absolutely key. At the same time, I've got to have competence. I've got to be able to have some victories under my belt and show people that I know what I'm talking about.
“All of us in athletics, especially our coaches, need to be looked at as teachers first of our student-athletes and then we engage a community. I think we're a rallying point for the university, something to build around.”
Good answer, and Cincinnati’s disappointment in Babcock’s departure appears genuine. That bodes well for Virginia Tech.
University president Santa Ono tweeted that his “partnership with Whit Babcock over the past years has been awesome, and I will always be proud of our collaboration. I wish him the best.”
Football coach Tommy Tuberville was Babcock’s headline hire, but Babcock also appointed head coaches for volleyball, women's soccer, lacrosse, baseball and men's track and field. Plus, he reinstated scholarships for men's track and men's swimming.
Paul Daugherty, the Enquirer’s esteemed columnist and a long-time acquaintance of mine, wrote: “Thanks partly to Babcock, UC should be better prepared for the next round of conference musical chairs. And any progress the athletic department makes is far more beholden to the university president and board – and big donors – than to the good work of an athletic director.
“But a good AD sets a tone, and Babcock’s tone will be missed. He was smart, and forward thinking. He had the department on a good track.”
Babcock raised troughs of money at Cincinnati and elsewhere, and made the big Tuberville hire. That explains, in large measure, why he appealed to Virginia Tech.
We keyboard jockeys and other media will meet the gentleman in just a few hours. Poor dude.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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