The University of Illinois has fired its athletic director, Mike Thomas, following months of criticism about different athletic programs at the school.
“Mike Thomas has done a good job of leading through recent challenges,” Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said in a statement, according to the Chicago Tribune. “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’ firing follows the high-profile firing of football coach Tim Beckman in August, a week before the start of the season. As we reported at the time, a review found that Beckman had made “efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries.”
The school released a final report on the university’s football program, which did not single out Thomas for any wrongdoing.
In a statement Monday, Thomas said that he understood the university’s need for a clean slate.
“I understand the administration’s decision to turn the page and turn the focus of this organization back on the success and welfare of our student-athletes. The reports indicate that I acted appropriately and immediately whenever I learned of any issues related to the safety and well-being of our students. However, I understand the chancellor’s viewpoint that my continued presence may create an ongoing distraction for our students, coaches and staff, and I accept the situation.”
The Tribune adds that the university’s athletic department has weathered a number of scandals this year:
“The athletic department has faced scandal and criticism since the spring. Seven former women’s basketball players filed a $10 million racial discrimination lawsuit, several football players alleged player mistreatment by coach Tim Beckman, who was subsequently fired, and a women’s soccer player also sued the school for medical mistreatment of concussions.”