Mike Thomas' tenure as the athletics director at the University of Illinois is over.
Interim chancellor Barbara J. Wilson announced Monday morning that the school is making a change in leadership in the department of intercollegiate athletics, with the findings of the investigations into the football and women's basketball programs released Monday, as well.
While the investigation did not find that Thomas did anything wrong, Wilson still said that a leadership change was needed.
"There were no findings of misconduct by the director of athletics and no violations of policies or standards by him in this review," Wilson said in a letter to students and faculty. "But, I believe that in order to move forward and put the focus of the athletics program back on the success of student-athletes, a change in leadership is needed."
Wilson announced that Paul Kowalczyk will take over as interim athletics director.
According to Wilson, Thomas' departure is made possible by a "without cause" separation clause in his contract.
Thomas and his department came under fire this summer when the football and women's basketball programs were plagued by accusations of mistreatment of student-athletes by the respective coaching staffs.
Former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic took to Twitter to accuse former head football coach Tim Beckman of being an abusive bully who forced his players to play injured, demonized injured players and threatened to take players' scholarships away.
Those accusations were found to be mostly true by the investigation, and Thomas fired Beckman a week before the season began.
This from the report by the law firm Franczek Radelek:
"Examples of the issues we uncovered include: (1) coach interference with player reports of injuries to athletic trainers and doctors through demeaning criticism in public settings, belittling commentary regarding injuries and injured players, preaching perseverance through injuries to an inappropriate extent, and encouraging players to minimize reports of injuries; (2) coach interference with and failure to defer to physician decisions by exerting excessive pressure on athletic trainers that led some head athletic trainers to leave, one athletic trainer to prioritize football team goals over student-athlete medical concerns, and physicians to intervene multiple times; and (3) administrative oversight deficiencies regarding the response to reports of concerns from team physicians and athletic trainers. Coach Beckman created pressure on sports medicine staff and players in incremental fashion, building a culture that tended to blame players for being injured, dissuaded reports of injuries, and favored athletic trainers who pushed medical decision-making boundaries. Student-athletes received proper medical care when sought, but Coach Beckman’s leadership did not prioritize student-athlete welfare with respect to injury management in accordance with applicable standards."
Several former members of the women's basketball program filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming that an environment of racial hostility existed within the program, accusing the coaching staff of treating black and white players differently, holding segregated practice and having them room separately during road trips.
But a separate investigation into that program and those accusations found no evidence to support those claims.
Thomas began his tenure as the athletics director at Illinois in August 2011 and hired both Beckman and current men's head basketball coach John Groce.
While Thomas has brought improvements to Memorial Stadium and the State Farm Center, the latter of which is in the middle of a massive renovation project, he has received plenty of criticism for his department's two most high-profile programs failing to reach a sustained level of success. In three seasons under Beckman, the football program reached just one bowl game, while in three seasons under Groce, the basketball program has just once reached the NCAA tournament.
Kowalczyk steps up from his position as senior associate athletics director. He was the athletics director at both Colorado State and Southern Illinois.