(CBS) The University of Illinois announced the hiring of Mike Thomas as the school’s new athletic director at a press conference Wednesday.

Thomas was the athletic director at Cincinnati for the last six years. One of his first hires at Cincinnati was football coach Brian Kelly, who led the Bearcats to two BCS bowls before moving on to Notre Dame.

“This is a terrific choice to lead the Fighting Illini program,” Illinois Chancellor-designee Phyllis Wise said in a statement. “Mike has an incredibly strong record of building winning programs with the highest degree of integrity and academic excellence. He has accomplished a lot with modest resources, and has a passion in his belly for the U of I.”

During his time at Cincinnati, Thomas oversaw five Big East team titles and an NCAA individual championship.

“Intercollegiate athletics are a critical element of the campus community, and I understand the importance of student-athletes excelling in both the playing arena and the classroom,” Thomas said. “The U of I has the essential pieces—facilities, staff, athletes, alumni and fans—for continued excellence and success, and I’m deeply honored and excited to be able to lead the Fighting Illini.”

Thomas said he had some loose ends to tie up at Cincinnati, but hopes to start the job before the first football game, which is Sept. 3.

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