Virginia Tech Athletics Department
Jamerson Athletic Center
25 Beamer Way
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Whit Babcock is in his third year as Virginia Tech’s Director of Athletics after being formally announced as Tech’s AD on Jan. 24, 2014. The Harrisonburg, Virginia native came back to the state following stints at Cincinnati, Missouri, West Virginia and Auburn.
"It [the position] was appealing to me primarily because of two reasons – fit and opportunity," Babcock said at the news conference announcing his hiring. "My Virginia heritage – I’m a fifth-generation Virginian – certainly helps with fit and understanding the culture, and coming home is a big component.
"But it’s more than that. It’s also the opportunity to compete against the best and to join a championship-caliber program that is and will continue to be a leader in the ACC athletically and academically."
Babcock continues making his mark on all facets of the athletics department, from fan engagement to facilities to fundraising and coaching hires.
The 2015-16 academic year turned into a busy one for him, as he made three key coaching hires and oversaw the revamping of the Hokie Club, the athletics department’s fundraising arm. Babcock’s biggest hire came when he brought in Justin Fuente as the new football coach to succeed legendary Frank Beamer, who retired after the 2015 season following 29 years as the head coach of the Hokies. Fuente came to Tech after four seasons at Memphis, where he turned around a struggling program, guiding the school to 19 wins in his final two seasons there.
Babcock also tabbed Kenny Brooks to lead the Virginia Tech women’s basketball program. Brooks joined the Hokies after registering 337 wins at James Madison, where he led the Dukes to 11 consecutive postseason appearances, including six NCAA tournament berths. Babcock also tabbed John Sung to lead the women’s lacrosse program after starting a program from scratch at Winthrop and proceeded to guide the Eagles to back-to-back NCAA appearances before coming to Blacksburg.
Babcock’s penchant for attracting some of the nation’s top coaching talent to Virginia Tech paid dividends for the Hokies in 2015-16 as men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams led Tech to a 20-win season and an NIT berth in just his second season in Blacksburg. Tech registered a six-game ACC winning streak and rejuvenated the raucous atmosphere at Cassell Coliseum. Williams joined the Hokies in 2014 after a six-year stint at Marquette where he posted 139 victories and five NCAA berths.
On the fundraising front, Babcock and his staff teamed with the staff of the Hokie Club to launch a big initiative. After more than a year’s worth of research, they introduced the "Hokie Scholarship Fund." The program is designed to increase funding for scholarships by requiring football and men’s basketball season ticket holders in certain designated locations to meet minimum per-seat gift contributions. These contributions will provide revenue to meet the rising costs of tuition for the school’s more than 550 scholarship student-athletes.
Babcock’s professional background is mostly in fundraising and marketing, and he believes that success in these areas begins with developing relationships.
"People have to trust you, and you have to paint a vision for them and show them how they can make an impact," he said. "The reason we want to treat all of our fans well is because they are all important. There’s an old adage in our business that everyone’s first gift is their smallest. If you do things right, it moves on up the line. So we’ll look forward to engaging everybody and focus on that point of creating memorable experiences when they come in contact with us."
The 2015-16 academic year also saw Babcock and his staff secure corporate donations for upcoming facilities projects. Carilion Clinic committed $5 million that will be used for scholarships and improvements to Cassell Coliseum, and Union Bank committed $3.5 million toward improvements to English Field, the Hokies’ baseball home.
In addition, Babcock unveiled future projects that include improvements to the department’s academic center and student-athlete development areas, Rector Field House, Tech Softball Park, and Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center. These plans follow the completion of the new $21.3 million indoor practice facility behind the Jamerson Athletics Center, a facility that opened in the summer of 2015. This facility is being used by the football program and also the men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse programs.
The Hokies have continued to enjoy success both in the playing venues and in the classroom during Babcock’s brief tenure. In the 2015-16 academic year, Virginia Tech won ACC championships in the sports of men’s outdoor track and field and wrestling – the school’s 21st and 22nd ACC team titles since joining the league. In that same year, eight teams qualified for NCAA postseason competition, with the track and field and swimming and diving programs also sending several individuals to the NCAA Championships. During the 2014-15 academic year, the Hokies won two ACC titles and seven teams qualified for NCAA competition.
Academically, 53 percent of Tech’s student-athletes maintained a cumulative grade-point average 3.0 or better at the conclusion of the 2016 spring semester. The average team cumulative GPA was 3.09, and 15 teams maintained a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better.
All of this builds on what Babcock and his staff accomplished during the first two years of his tenure. In year No. 2, they launched two big campaigns, with the announcement of the 110% Hokie Campaign and the Twenty4You initiative. Babcock recognized Tech’s student-athletes giving 110 percent, so the 110% Hokie Campaign called for donors to do the same by increasing their annual contributions by 10 percent to help offset Tech’s commitment in paying the cost-of-attendance "gap" for its student-athletes.
The Twenty4You initiative implemented 24 ideas to improve the fan experience at Tech’s venues for 2015-16. Babcock and his staff plan on updating and continuing this initiative to better serve Hokie Nation on game day.
A new mission statement and core values for the athletics department were also launched under Babcock’s direction. The mission statement and the core values – integrity, service, honor, excellence, and strong together – represent the foundation of the department and every decision made. In addition, he unveiled the "Pylons of Promise," a landmark document that sets forth the university’s and the athletics department’s commitment to student-athletes during their times at Virginia Tech. This document served as Virginia Tech’s response to the changes in the NCAA governance landscape. The Pylons of Promise is based on the ideals emblazoned on the eight pylons at the Virginia Tech War Memorial Court.
Babcock arrived in Blacksburg following two and a half years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Cincinnati and five years at the University of Missouri, where he served as the Executive Associate Director of Athletics. His background in fundraising, marketing, promotions, ticket sales, licensing, and multimedia partnerships were key attributes in support of his hiring. In his introductory press conference, Babcock cited three guiding principles for his vision for the athletics department's future: commitment to comprehensive excellence, centering the department's focus on the student-athlete experience, and engaging the community.
During his two-year stint as the AD at Cincinnati, Babcock initiated a new administrative structure within the department and proposed a comprehensive vision and capital campaign for athletics facility enhancement, which included an $86-million renovation and expansion to Nippert Stadium, the school’s football stadium. He also set forth a scholarship enhancement plan for Olympic sports, crafted a three-year strategic plan for all facets of the program, hired head coaches in football, baseball, men’s track and field, lacrosse, volleyball and women’s soccer, and implemented numerous external relations strategies to connect and engage with Bearcats’ alumni, donors, fans, and students.
Babcock’s last full season at Cincinnati (2012-13) was successful one for the Bearcats that saw the football team win its fourth conference championship in five seasons and the men’s basketball squad earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.
Academically, Cincinnati transitioned from an academic calendar of quarters to semesters, and the Bearcats had a departmental GPA of 3.028. Overall 11 of 17 teams achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Over the past five years, both while at Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, Babcock has been active on the local and national speaking circuits. He has presented before the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) and the 1-A Athletic Directors Association annual institute. He is a past president of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD).
Prior to his time at Cincinnati, Babcock’s 22-year career path included stops at Missouri, West Virginia, Auburn and James Madison.
A student-athlete himself, Babcock lettered four seasons in baseball at James Madison University and served as team captain his senior year. He earned his bachelor’s degree from JMU in 1992. In 1996, he received his master’s in sports management from West Virginia University.
He and his wife, Kelly, have three sons: Andrew, Brett and Eli.