Illinois has fired athletic director Mike Thomas following a turbulent year in Champaign that has seen serious allegations of abuse in the college football and women's basketball department.
"Mike Thomas has done a good job of leading through recent challenges," Interim Chancellor Barbara 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."
The decision to fire Thomas comes at the end of an external review of the school's response to allegations in football and women's basketball. Illinois said the report includes "no findings of misconduct and no violations of policies or standards" by Thomas, which resulted in his firing "without cause" and allowed him to collect a buyout from the school.
"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," Thomas said in a statement. "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."
Football coach Tim Beckman was fired in August after preliminary results of this external review provided enough evidence of player mistreatment to make an immediate change. The allegations against the women's basketball coach Matt Bollant, still in his current post, and his staff, which include one assistant that has left the program, include racism, harassment and bullying.
>>Missouri President Resigns Amid Racial Tension
Missouri system president Tim Wolfe announced his resignation Monday, opening the door for Missouri's striking football players to return to practice.
"The motivation in making this decision comes from love," Wolfe said. "I love MU, Columbia where I grew up, the state of Missouri."
"This is not -- I repeat not -- the way change should come about," he continued. "Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation. We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening and quit intimidating each other. Unfortunately, this has not happened, and that is why I stand before you today, and I take full responsibility for this frustration. And I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred."
Many of Mizzou's black players announced they would no longer participate in football activities Saturday night, showing solidarity with Missouri graduate student Jonathan Butler, who had undertaken a hunger strike he vowed would not conclude until Wolfe resigned or was removed from his post. Part of a series of protests by black student groups upset with recent racially motivated incidents on campus and Missouri's administrative response, Butler's hunger strike lasted seven days.
Both Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades issued statements of support for the boycotting players. Pinkel also shared a photo of the entire Tigers team -- black and white -- locking arms in solidarity. He said the team as a whole would not practice until the 32 black players who began the boycott were prepared to resume.
A Missouri player told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd the team would return to practice as scheduled and resume full activities.