Northwestern announced Wednesday that athletic director Mike Polisky is resigning after just 10 days on the job amid controversy surrounding his promotion from his prior post as deputy athletic director for external affairs. Detractors have criticized the hiring of Polisky as he is among four defendants in a lawsuit filed against the university in January by a former Northwestern cheerleader.
The lawsuit alleges that “cheerleaders were being presented as sex objects to titillate the men that funded the majority of Northwestern’s athletics programs,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Though a group of alumni, donors and Northwestern athletes wrote a letter to the Northwestern Board of Trustees supporting Polisky on Wednesday, it wasn’t enough to salvage the situation.
“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,” Polisky said. “My love and respect for Northwestern and for our student-athletes, coaches and staff, is greater than my own desire to lead the department. 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.”
Northwestern president Morty Schapiro previously defended the hiring of Polisky, who is alleged to have been dismissive of the former cheerleader’s harassment claims. On Wednesday, Schapiro said, “I understand and respect his decision.”
Schapiro named Northwestern professor Robert Gundlach as the interim athletic director after he served in the interim role previously during 2008.