Illinois fires athletic director Mike Thomas

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Illinois fired athletic director Mike Thomas on Monday. (AP/Stephen Haas)

The University of Illinois fired athletic director Mike Thomas on Monday.

Hired in August of 2011 by the school, Thomas brought a basketball coach, John Groce, and a football coach, Tim Beckman, to Champaign. Of the three men, only Groce remains in his position.

The Illinois athletic department has been embroiled in controversy throughout much of the year. Beckman was fired after multiple former players claimed to have been mistreated by the coach. Former women’s basketball players alleged to have endured racial discrimination from coaching staff. Athletes from multiple sports charged the school with failing to provide appropriate medical care for their injuries.

The school exercised a “without cause” separation clause in Thomas’ contract. Interim chancellor Barbara Wilson said in a statement that no misconduct by Thomas, nor violations of policies or standards, had been discovered.

“Mike Thomas has done a good job of leading through recent challenges,” Wilson said. “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.”

Said Thomas in a statement:

“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.”

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