Chancellor Wilson introduces new Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk


Interim Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk speaks at the Memorial Stadium press box. 

By Charlotte Carroll

The University released the results of the independent reports of the Illinois sports medicine and football programs investigations and in turn announced the dismissal of Athletic Director Mike Thomas.

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson and Interim Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk spoke at the press conference about the investigation and the future of Illinois athletics.

Thomas and former Chancellor Phyllis Wise commissioned an independent investigation of the program, conducted by Chicago law firm Francek Radelet.

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    Wilson said the final report was given to the University last week — she has been talking with Thomas since then. She said the report found no misconduct on Thomas’ part. Wilson added she was the one who brought up the idea of Thomas stepping down and that he was “gracious” about the decision.

    The buyout for Thomas is $2.5 million dollars, coming from the athletic budget and the University is exercising the “without cause” separation clause in Thomas’ contract.

    Coaches from all Illini sports were in attendance including women’s basketball head coach Matt Bollant, men’s gymnastics Justin Spring and women’s gymnastics Kim Landrus. Dee Brown and other athletic administrators were in attendance as well.

    Wilson and Kowalczyk said they would be meeting with the Illini head coaches Monday and Tuesday.

    Kowalczyk has been with Illinois since 2012. He previously served as director of athletics at Colorado State University and Southern Illinois University, but never as an interim athletic director.

    He will be making $295,000 in his new position. He was previously earning $140,595 as senior associate athletic director.

    When asked about the future of the football program, both Wilson and Kowalczyk said they would be waiting until the end of the season to make decisions regarding head coach Bill Cubit. Both praised Cubit’s progress with the team.

    “He wants to know his fate more than anyone else in room,” Kowalczyk said.

    The report cleared women’s basketball coach Bollant of any wrongdoings. He was confident in the future of his team and the players.

    “The personal (aspect) is really hard,” Bollant said. “I love Mike Thomas. He’s been great through all of this and he’s been good with me, I had opportunities at several BCS schools and I chose to come to Illinois partly because of Mike Thomas.”

    While Wilson and Kowalczyk answered questions about the investigation, there was also talk about the future of projects started by Thomas, including the possible revamping of the South End Zone of Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center rehabilitation.

    But Kowalczyk said he doesn’t want to see any project just lay there. State Farm Center is set to reopen Dec. 2, and he added that he will be looking at the South Endzone project.

    “I got to get up to speed pretty quickly with that.”

    Despite never having served as interim before, Kowalczyk wasn’t worried. Instead his focus was on moving forward and securing the future of student athletes.

    “I’ve not been an interim before so I’m not really sure what that means, but I appreciate what the chancellor said in regards to that.” Kowalczyk said. “We’re not going to sit on our hands, we’ve got stuff we got to do. We’ve got things we want to accomplish.”

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