Miltenberg: “Mike Polisky Resigns As Northwestern Athletic Director After Continued Criticism of His Hiring: ‘I Do Not Want to Be a Distraction’,” Chicago Tribune


Mike Polisky stepped down Wednesday from his newly appointed role as Northwestern athletic director as criticism continued to mount against his hiring. Polisky was promoted from his deputy athletic director role May 3 after more than a decade in the department. But some members of the board of trustees and the search committee were displeased by university President Morton Schapiro’s decision because Polisky is one of four defendants along with the university in an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit filed in January by a Northwestern cheerleader, who said in the complaint Polisky dismissed her concerns and accused her of fabricating evidence. “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 in a statement. “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.” Schapiro said in a statement that Northwestern’s faculty athletic representative, Robert Gundlach, will run the department on an interim basis. Schapiro said in the statement that in “the coming months” he will share information about choosing the next athletic director. After Polisky’s hiring, six female faculty members wrote a letter to the university provost asking for an independent investigation into the hiring, and nearly 400 — including Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss — participated in a march from campus to Schapiro’s home. The university filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and Schapiro released a letter to the Northwestern community saying an investigation by a university-hired law firm had completed an initial review and Polisky was found not to have violated any policies. More than 140 Polisky supporters addressed a letter to Northwestern board of trustees members earlier Wednesday. Cheerleader Hayden Richardson said in the lawsuit and in a Tribune report that cheerleaders were sexually exploited and put in positions to mingle with donors and fans who groped them. She said Polisky did not take her concerns seriously. Andrew Miltenberg, an attorney representing Richardson in the lawsuit, issued a statement Wednesday night calling Polisky “grossly unfit” to serve as Northwestern’s athletic director. “It is no surprise that public pressure and outrage from the campus community forced him to step down from this absurd appointment,” Miltenberg wrote. “We’re gratified that the community, faculty and students take seriously the issues of sexual abuse and harassment — which Mike Polisky and Northwestern turned a blind eye to for far too long.”