Christopher excited for jump to XU, Big East
CINCINNATI - Greg Christopher was away from his office at Bowling Green State University when he got a phone call from Xavier’s Mike Bobinski about a month ago. Christopher didn’t think too much about the message at the time. He and Bobinski had known each other from their time as athletic directors so Christopher figured it was just to talk shop.
The shop talk lasted a few minutes when Bobinski got to the heart of his call.
“He said, ‘Well, you know I’m going to Georgia Tech. Would you have an interest in coming down here to Xavier?’” Christopher recalled on Tuesday. “It took me about that long to say ‘Yes, absolutely.’ I have lot of respect for Mike and the work that’s been done by the team here at Xavier. This is great opportunity.”
Xavier introduced Christopher, 47, as its 11th athletic director Tuesday at the Cintas Center. He will officially begin his duties on May 6. Bobinski’s tenure at Xavier ended March 22.
Christopher has been the AD at Bowling Green since 2006. He helped bring $60 million in new or renovated athletic facilities to BGSU, including the $36 million Stroh Center. The academic achievements of the BGSU athletes also improved under Christopher; the number of athletes who carried a 3.0 GPA or better in their school life increased each of the last five years.
His development of the Falcon Leadership Academy for BGSU student-athletes stood out, said Xavier president Fr. Michael J. Graham, S.J.
As Xavier leaves the Atlantic 10 conference for a revamped Big East beginning July 1, Christopher faces big expectations to keep up what the university’s athletic department has grown into over the years under Bobinski and Jeff Fogelson for 15 years before him.
“The banners out there (in the Cintas Center) speak for themselves but I think everyone in this room knows it’s the people behind that,” said Christopher. “The natural evolution of this institution from the MCC (Midwestern Collegiate Conference) to the A-10 and now the Big East that’s a great stepping stone, a great opportunity and it speaks to the success that Xavier has had before.”
The reconfiguration of the Big East is a return to the conference’s roots when it was a basketball-centric league. Conference holdovers Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, Marquette, DePaul and Seton Hall will be joined by Xavier, Butler and Creighton. The new league already has a 12-year television agreement with FOX Sports and men’s basketball will be a major component to the programming on FOX Sports 1, which is set to start on Aug. 17.
“The Big East brand and the institutions that come with it are incredibly strong, so it's a great partnership,” said Christopher. “I think people in the television world will tell you, and I've heard it enough times sitting in the (ESPN) offices in Bristol: College athletics is not about eyeballs, it's about the brands. You think about the brands that are part of the Big East, this is a really strong group of institutions.
“Some other conferences and some other schools or some other television folks will tout: Look at the markets we have. College athletics isn't built on the markets; it's built on the brands. And again, I think the positioning of the Big East with the brands that it has is very strong.”