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Monday, October 24, 2011
Cincy AD: Big East must rebuild trust

Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- The University of Cincinnati's next director of athletics said Monday that the Big East has to rebuild trust and stability as it tries to survive all the conference realignment.

Whit Babcock was formally introduced as the Bearcats' next director of athletics, moving from one BCS conference in flux to another. Babcock, who was an assistant at Missouri, said trust and stability are vital for conferences.

There's a chance to pull it together with the addition of teams, and once we see what the Big 12 does, hopefully things will settle down and the Big East can build back.

-- New Cincinnati AD Whit Babcock

"And right now, I don't know that the Big East has either," Babcock said. "But there's a chance to pull it together with the addition of teams, and once we see what the Big 12 does, hopefully things will settle down and the Big East can build back.

"But that trust and stability right now is wavering, and we've got to get that back."

Babcock isn't sure how the Big East can do that with so much uncertainty ahead.

"I don't know if I have a perfect answer for it," he said in an interview. "I think it all has to play out. Schools certainly should be loyal to the conference, but I also know that (the school president's) job is to do what's in the best interests of the University of Cincinnati, so you really have a dual role there.

"I don't know how you build it back until it calms down a little bit and stabilizes. But it's an interesting time. I hope it doesn't last too much longer."

The Big East stands to lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh, leaving it with six football schools: Cincinnati, West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers, Connecticut and South Florida. The conference tried to add TCU, but the school did an about-face because of the Big East's instability and accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 this month.

The Big East is considering inviting Boise State as part of a plan to become a 12-team conference for football.

Missouri has been part of the uncertainty in the Big 12, which lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 over the summer. Texas A&M plans to move to the Southeastern Conference next year. Missouri also is exploring a move to the SEC.

Cincinnati has been without an athletics director since August, when Mike Thomas moved to Illinois. President Gregory H. Williams introduced Babcock on Monday as "a true rising star in intercollegiate athletics."

He's got a lot of major challenges in addition to the conference uncertainty.

Cincinnati spent millions of dollars to upgrade its facilities for a move to the Big East for the 2005 season. While Babcock was an executive associate director at Missouri, the school had record highs in donors, fundraising, season ticket sales and revenues.

The Bearcats have a tight budget and have struggled to sell out their on-campus football stadium and basketball arena despite their recent success. Cincinnati won back-to-back Big East football titles in 2009-10, then slipped to 4-8 last season. They're ranked No. 24 in this week's AP poll and are atop the league again, but have failed to sell out any of their three games at 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium. They sold 40,971 tickets for a game against Louisville at 65,500-seat Paul Brown stadium.

The men's basketball team reached the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since Bob Huggins was ousted as coach after the 2004-05 season, finally digging out from the fallout. Williams noted on Monday that Cincinnati is the only school in Ohio with football and men's basketball programs currently in the various national rankings.

Babcock hopes to energize the school's fan base. Cincinnati has more than 42,000 students and many alumni in the area.

"We will ask them to invest," Babcock said.