Newly-Promoted Northwestern Athletic Director Mike Polisky Resigns Following Controversy, Protests From Faculty And Students

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Newly-promoted Northwestern University athletic director Mike Polisky announced on Tuesday that he is resigning from his post and leaving the university.

This follows protests by faculty and students over his promotion from Deputy Director of Athletics for External Affairs just 10 days ago. He had been accused of failing to take sexual harassment seriously, as well as racism on the cheer team, according to published reports.

“Over the last 10 days, it has become clear to me that the current challenges will not allow me to effectively lead our department, especially during these unsettling times in college athletics. My love and respect for Northwestern and for our student-athletes, coaches and staff, is greater than my own desire to lead the department,” Polisky said in a statement. “I do not want to be a distraction to our incredible men and women as they pursue a collective goal – to help our student-athletes become the best they can be. While my family and I are disappointed, I move forward knowing this is the right decision.”

Last week, six professors co-signed an to Northwestern Provost Kathleen Hagerty expressing “dismay” over Polisky’s promotion to athletic director. The letter said his hiring “signals a troubling continuity in Athletic Department leadership that, while successful in some areas, failed the University and its students in significant ways.”

As , Polisky was named in a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed this year by Northwestern senior and former cheerleader Hayden Richardson. The lawsuit claimed Polisky did not appropriately address complaints about sexual harassment, the Daily Northwestern said.

A Daily Northwestern investigation also revealed that multiple sources alleged Polisky did not take claims within the cheer team about anti-Black racism seriously, the newspaper reported.

Northwestern University President Robert Schapiro said in a statement that he understands and respects Polisky’s decision, and has selected someone from outside the Department of Athletics & Recreation to lead the department on an interim basis. That person is linguistics Professor Robert Gundlach – who is also Northwestern’s faculty athletics representative to the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference and who filled the role on an interim basis during another time of transition in 2008.