Illinois fires Athletic Director Mike Thomas

mikethomasIllinois has fired Athletic Director Mike Thomas effective immediately on Monday.

Illinois’ football and women’s basketball programs have been under investigation for mistreatment of players.  Thomas fired Illini football coach Tim Beckman one week before the college football season started.

Thomas was hired as Illinois’ director of athletics in August of 2011.  His hires include former football coach Tim Beckman, men’s basketball coach John Groce and women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant.  Beckman and Bollant had their programs investigated by the university for mistreatment of players.

“Mike Thomas has done a good job of leading through recent challenges,” Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said in a statement.  “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.”

The athletic department has faced multiple scandals.  Seven former women’s basketball players filed a $10 million racial discrimination lawsuit.  Several football players claimed that they were mistreated by head coach Tim Beckman, which includes being forced to play through injury.  A women’s soccer player sued the school for medical mistreatment of concussions.

Senior associate athletic director Paul Kowalczyk has been promoted to interim athletic director.  He was previously an athletic director at Southern Illinois University and Colorado State University.

The University of Illinois is in a tough position.  They now have an interim chancellor, interim athletic director and an interim football coach.


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