College athletics: Babcock had Virginia Tech job at top of wish list
Whit Babcock is fulfilling a lifelong dream by becoming the athletic director at Virginia Tech.
The 43-year-old was introduced as the school's next AD on Wednesday, and said he comes at the job from perspective of a former student-athlete, the son of a college coach and a 20-year college administrator.
He replaces Jim Weaver, who retired at the end of 2013 because of health concerns.
Born in Lynchburg and raised in Harrisonburg, Babcock played baseball for his father at James Madison.
"It's good to be back home again in Virginia," Babcock said. "When those closest to me, my family, my mentors, would ask, 'Whit, if you could pick one place in the country, one place, your top place in the country to be director of athletics, where would it be?', that answer has been and is Virginia Tech."
Babcock, who left after the press conference to fly to ACC meetings, received a five-year contract that begins March 1. He said he will be back and forth between Blacksburg and Cincinnati, where he has been the athletic director for 27 months, in the coming weeks and plans to start fulltime on Feb. 17.
His background and philosophy, he said, were molded by being the son of a college coach, by a self-described mediocre baseball career, and by his last two decades in sports administration.
"I'm a product of that student-athlete experience, and I believe the student-athlete experience teaches a lot of life lessons that are not easily replicated on campus," he said. "It teaches you how to win with class, lose with class, how to deal with people from all sorts of background and cultures."
All of those elements were a part of what Babcock worked to improve at Cincinnati, where he reinstated some Olympic sports with increased funding, and set up academic programs to help student-athletes.
He said the foundation of his beliefs breaks down into four principles: Aligning with the mission and core values of the university, a commitment to comprehensive excellence on the field, in the classroom and community, a centered focus on the student-athlete experience, and a bond with the community.
Babcock said he spoke with Frank Beamer after being offered the job, but has not met with him.
"I hope he coaches for a long time, wins a lot of games. In many facets, he's the brand of Virginia Tech athletics," Babcock said, adding that he has no preconceived ideas about any of Tech's coaches. "I'm much more interested in finding out what I can do to support coach Beamer than I am at this point worrying about having to replace him.
"He's a legend, he's a hall of famer and I can learn a lot from him."
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said Babcock was chosen over two other finalists who he did not name.
"We believe that he has the character and energy and experience and the vision to lead our athletic department in the future," said Steger, who is retiring as the university's president on June 1.
He also praised Weaver, who held the job for 16 years, for leaving the athletic program in good shape, and said Weaver will be paid for the final two years of his contract while serving as a consultant to incoming president Timothy Sands.
Weaver, who revealed in 2008 that he is battling Parkinson's disease, has had four back surgeries in recent years, and last month had his second his replacement. He is due to have the other hip replaced in the near future.
"We support our folks when they have times of trouble," Steger said.