Big East loses key behind-the-scenes figure
By Bill Koch, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Greg Williams, who unexpectedly announced his resignation as the University of Cincinnati president Tuesday, was a strong supporter of the school’s athletics program.
Williams also was very active in the Big East Conference, working behind the scenes to keep the conference together after the defections of West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and helping with the massive expansion plans the league developed in an attempt to keep relevant in football.
This summer Williams chaired the presidents’ committee to find a new commissioner to replace John Marinatto. He was in New York City last week and attended the news conference where the league announced that it had hired CBS television executive Mike Aresco for the job.
“He had really emerged as a leader of the conference,” said UC athletics director Whit Babcock.
News of Williams’ resignation spread quickly Tuesday at the Bearcats’ football training camp in West Harrison, Ind., with most expressing shock that he was leaving.
Williams hired Babcock last fall to replace Mike Thomas, who left the school to become the athletic director at Illinois.
“I’ll always be indebted to him for that,” Babcock said. “It’s just shocking news. He made a brief statement to a small group of us about resigning for personal reasons. I have no reason not to take him at his word.”
Babcock called Williams “a good leader on campus in a lot of areas. He played sports coming up so he certainly was knowledgeable and came to a lot of our games. He certainly was a resource for me and a mentor.”
Provost Santa Ono, named interim president Tuesday, is also a strong supporter of the athletic program. This summer he was filmed catching a pass at Nippert Stadium from UC quarterback Munchie Legaux.
“He’s a great supporter of students,” Babcock said. “I’ve been to a lot of schools and Dr. Ono has been really engaged with the students, whether they’re student-athletes or the band or engineering students.”