CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) The University of Illinois has confirmed reports that Josh Whitman will be its new athletic director.

In a statement Wednesday interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson praised the leadership and accomplishments of the 37-year-old Whitman.

Whitman called the job a dream come true.

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Whitman has been the athletic director at Division III Washington University in St. Louis. He played football at Illinois from 1997-2000 and worked for several years in the department he will now run.

He takes over for Mike Thomas, who was fired in November after a series of problems in the football and women's basketball programs.

Thomas fired football coach Tim Beckman for allegedly interfering in player medical decisions.

Seven former women's basketball players have accused coach Matt Bollant of creating a racially hostile atmosphere in a lawsuit.