U Of I AD Fired, Will Get $2.5M Buyout

Nov 9, 2015

Interim Urbana Chancellor Barbara Wilson announces that Athletic Director Mike Thomas has been fired.
Credit illinois Public Media

University of Illinois Interim Urbana Chancellor Barbara Wilson says the decision to fire athletic director Mike Thomas came after a law firm’s release of a final report into abuse allegations within the football and women’s basketball programs.

But speaking in a Monday morning news conference… Wilson says the dismissal is tied to ‘distractions’… and not any misconduct or violations of policies or standards by the now-former Athletic Director.

“He has done a good job of leading DIA through recent challenges, and he is the one who actually requested the outside investigations.  However, it’s time to put the distractions of these past months behind us, and to put the focus back on the success of our athletic programs," she said.

The final release of the report from Franczek Radelet provided further detail into the allegations against former football coach Tim Beckman, who was fired at the start of the season over reports he pressured players to play hurt, and routinely questions medical judgments.

Paul Kowalczyk has been named interim athletic director, and says he feels sad about Thomas’ dismissal, but felt an obligation to step up.

"He’s a class act.  And we have good rapport, we have good conversations, I feel for the guy, and he handled things with grace and dignity," he added.

Kowalczyk says there will be no further decisions on the football program until after the season.  Bill Cubit has served as interim coach after Beckman’s dismissal.  Thomas will receive a 2-point-5 million dollar buyout.