Former President Robert Witt left the position to take over as the chancellor for the UA school system earlier this month. Executive Vice President and Provost Judy Bonner served as the interim president.
Blankenship, best known as “The Face,” will become the youngest president in higher education history.
Witt refused to comment at first, but after receiving approval from his director of media relations, he offered his support for Blankenship.
“Students probably know more about him than me,” Witt said. “I think students will recognize his face before they recognized mine, if I decided to attend anything.”
Since becoming famous during UA basketball games for holding up a sign of his face, Blankenship has made the rounds on late-night television and talk shows. He has nearly 5,000 Twitter followers and advanced further in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament than the Tide did.
Witt said he felt confident in Blankenship or any other candidate fulfilling the goals he set out as president.
“A million students by 2050 is still possible,” Witt said. “Though I could have done it by 2040, easy.”
Bonner said stepping down as interim president will come with pride and disappointment.
“What I was able to do was set a standard for future female leaders at this university,” she said. “However, I wish I could have connected better with students.”
Paul Bryant Jr., president pro tempore of the Board of Trustees, explained the decision to name Blankenship as the successor to Witt.
“Well of course this has nothing to do with students, but we felt it was necessary to find someone who supported what we value: Bama sports,” he said.
Bryant said Bonner has served the University well as interim president.
“She is by far the best female president we have ever had, and probably the only one we will have,” he said.
When asked about Blankenship’s involvement in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the University, Bryant said he was unaware of it.
“Let me make it clear that ATO shouldn’t get a kick out of this,” Bryant said. “We simply saw this guy waving his face sign on the TV screen and thought, ‘He could do what Witt does.’ Nothing more than that.”
Blankenship was called, texted, faxed, emailed, tweeted and Facebook messaged but could not be reached for comment. An agent claiming to represent Blankenship said he was invited to be a contestant in a Chinese game show and would not be back on campus until next week.
“Blankenship realizes that being away from UA is not a good step as the new president, but that’s kind of what his predecessor did all the time,” the agent said.