Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs, 217-333-5010, email@example.com
Kent Brown, associate athletic director/media relations, 217-244-6533, firstname.lastname@example.org
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson announced today the campus will make a change in leadership of its Division of Intercollegiate Athletics by exercising a “without cause” separation clause in Director of Athletics Mike Thomas’ contract. Senior Associate Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk (kuh-WALL-check) has been appointed interim director, pending board approval. Kowalczyk has been with the Illinois program since 2012. He previously served as director of athletics at Colorado State University and Southern Illinois University.
The university also released the final reports by the law firm Franczek Radelet P.C., of Chicago, into allegations related to sports medicine and scholarship management in its football and women’s basketball programs. Preliminary findings from these investigations led to the Aug. 28 termination of former head football coach Tim Beckman.
Wilson said the reports found no misconduct by Thomas and no violations of policies or standards, but said a change in leadership was needed in order to move forward and put the focus of the athletics program on the success of the student-athletes.
“Mike Thomas has done a good job of leading through recent challenges,” Wilson said. “Decisions such as these are always difficult, but we have to focus on the best interests of our student-athletes. I believe this decision allows everyone to move forward.”
Thomas said he believes that the reports indicate he acted appropriately and immediately when he learned of any issues related to the welfare of student-athletes, but that he accepts the situation. “I believe it is a good time to turn the page and put the focus of this organization back on the success and welfare of our student-athletes,” Thomas said.
The Franczek Radelet investigation included a review of more than 200,000 documents and 100 interviews with players, former players, coaches and medical and athletic staff. The football report states that while Beckman supported student-athlete welfare in various respects, he also employed tactics that violated standards related to sports medicine protocols and scholarships. The report on women’s basketball states that coaches did not inappropriately push student-athletes and that student-athlete scholarship commitments were honored.
The university initiated the investigation in May when former members of the athletics program raised complaints about their treatment. Thomas requested that the Office of the Chancellor initiate an independent investigation into the allegations.
Wilson said she accepts the findings and is committed to addressing any continuing concerns the reports raise.
Thomas became the director of athletics in August 2011.
Link to reports: http://go.illinois.edu/athleticreviewreports