Tom Goss, whose 2 1/2 years as athletic director were marked by a budget deficit, a stadium controversy and the suspension of the basketball team's leading scorer, announced his resignation Tuesday.
"I believe that while it is time for me to step aside, a course has been defined to lead this department to great accomplishments," Goss said at a news conference Tuesday.
Reports of Goss' resignation began surfacing last week, although he said at the time he had no plans to resign.
Media reports said that Goss angered university President Lee Bollinger by not telling him of an NCAA probe of the eligibility of Wolverines freshman basketball player Jamal Crawford. Bollinger refused to comment on that Tuesday.
The NCAA last week suspended Crawford, the team's leading scorer, for six games for his living arrangements while in high school.
A source close to the situation said Bollinger asked Goss to step down and would likely have fired Goss had he refused.
Michigan AD Tom Goss Resigns.Windows Media
Goss conceded that the move caught him by surprise.
"But I felt it was time to step aside," Goss said.
Goss, 53, a former defensive lineman for the Wolverines, was the university's ninth athletic director, but the fourth in the last decade. He was the first black ever to run the department and didn't want to leave.
"I love this place, I'd like to stay, but I think it's time to make the next move," Goss said.
Goss, who earned $275,000 per year, was expected to receive $140,250 in severance pay.
Was Goss perhaps a scapegoat?
"Well, I hope not," Bollinger said. "And if that's what's being said, it's not true."
Goss was criticized by some of the university's regents for a budget deficit last year. He was placed under close scrutiny by the administration after a $2.8 million budget deficit was revealed last June.
Last year he had to cut a proposed $8 increase in football ticket prices to $4 after regents complained.
There also was a controversy over the decision to redecorate Michigan Stadium with a bright maize "halo" and phrases from the school's fight song. Last month, workers removed te large letters and icons surrounding the stadium's exterior.
Bollinger denied that Goss' resignation grew out of a power struggle between the president's office and the athletic department.
"I know that's a theme that's being played out in the press," Bollinger said. "We, as a matter of sound policy, defer to the athletic department the autonomy to run their programs. We do not interfere with that. It's the same autonomy we grant to any department."
Don Canham, who was Michigan's athletic director for 20 years, said it was a mistake to let Goss go.
"Not to have five years is not the way Michigan operates," Canham said. "I'm really upset about it. It's a sad day for everybody who cares anything about Michigan athletics.
"This will set us back a good 10 years."
Bollinger wasn't expected to pick a permanent replacement until near the end of the school year in May. Published reports also have said that the next athletic director might not have strong ties to the university.
When hired at Michigan to succeed Joe Roberson, who retired, Goss became the Big Ten Conference's highest-paid athletic director with his initial salary of $220,000. In April 1998, Bollinger boosted Goss' to $275,000 and paid him an extra, one-time payment of $30,000.
Goss, a 1968 Michigan graduate, was an executive in private business, most recently for PIA Merchandising Corp. in California, when Bollinger hired him. In 1998, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers recruited Goss to take over as team president, but he declined the offer.
"He felt his work here wasn't done," Canham said. "They offered him close to $1 million."
Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr watched quietly while standing against a wall in the handsome wood-paneled room at the Michigan Union.
"It's a very sad day for Michigan," said Carr, who won the 1997 national championship early in Goss' tenure. "He was a good friend. I enjoyed working for him, and I'm going to miss him."
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