O’Brien named Northeast Region Athletic Director of the Year

June 26, 2012 | News, UToday
By Paul Helgren



University of Toledo Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien was named the Under Armour Northeast Region Athletics Director of the Year for 2011-12 by the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

O’Brien will be recognized during the association’s 47th Annual Convention at the Hilton Anatole Hotel Wednesday, June 27, at the James J. Corbett Awards Luncheon in Dallas.

Mike O'Brien is shown here after announcing Tricia Cullop as UT's new head women's basketball coach in April 2008. She is one of the key hires made during his leaderhship.

“I would like to thank the NACDA awards committee for honoring me with this prestigious award,” O’Brien said. “I am truly humbled by this honor, as I acknowledge that something like this happens due to the efforts of a terrific staff, coaches and student-athletes. I see this as less of an individual honor for me, but rather a recognition of the accomplishments of our entire athletics program at UT.”

According to the NACDA website, criteria for the honor include service as an athletics director for a minimum of five academic years; demonstration of commitment to higher education and student-athletes; continuous teamwork, loyalty and excellence; and the ability to inspire individuals or groups to high levels of accomplishments.

Now in his 11th year at UT, O’Brien presided over one of the finest seasons in UT history. A few highlights from this past year include:

• MAC championships in women’s cross country, women’s swimming and diving, and women’s soccer;

• 9-4 record in football that included a 42-41 victory over Air Force in the Military Bowl;

• MAC West co-championship for the women’s basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight of the WNIT;

• First-ever MAC West Division title for the baseball team;

• Jacoby Trophy as the top women’s athletic program in the Mid-American Conference, the first time in the 30-year history of the trophy that UT took first place; and

• Record grade point average of 3.266 in spring semester for UT student-athletes, shattering the previous high mark of 3.167 set in fall 2011.

O’Brien has been an instrumental force in initiating one of the most ambitious construction schedules in school history. No fewer than five major projects have been completed during his reign; these include the renovation of Savage Arena and construction of the Fetterman Training Center.

O’Brien, who has the second-longest tenure among Mid-American Conference athletic directors, also has guided the Rockets into position as one of the strongest programs in the conference. The Rockets have won or shared 22 league titles in eight different sports under his watch. In the classroom, UT has produced overall department grade point averages of above a 3.1 in each of the past seven semesters. Among O’Brien’s other accomplishments are adding Ohio State, Miami (Fla.), Colorado, Purdue, Arizona, Missouri, Navy, Fresno State, Boise State, Wyoming and Cincinnati to the home football schedule; working with the Inverness Club to bring the 2009 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships to Toledo; and securing a multi-year deal with Learfield Sports to increase UT’s advertising revenue.

He has served as a member of the NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee and chaired the MAC Athletic Director’s Committee. He is also the conference’s athletic director representative to the Bowl Championship Series.

Prior to his appointment at UT, O’Brien had 15 years of experience in athletics administration at four universities: Kansas State (associate athletic director 1997-2001), Lamar (athletic director 1993-1997), Pittsburgh (director of development 1989-1993) and Ball State (marketing and development 1986-1989).

A native of Iowa City, Iowa, O’Brien earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Missouri Valley College in 1975, and has master’s degrees in education from Wisconsin-River Falls in 1982 and in sports management from Western Illinois in 1986.

Prior to his administrative career, O’Brien was an assistant basketball coach at three different schools from 1982 to 1986.

O’Brien and his wife, Michelle, have a son, Jack (10).