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Shelton resigning to take Fiesta Bowl job
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University of Arizona

Shelton resigning to take Fiesta Bowl job

After five years, University of Arizona President Robert Shelton will step down to become the head of the Fiesta Bowl, he announced Monday.

Shelton's resignation had been widely rumored over the past week.

"This was probably the most difficult decision I've ever had to make," Shelton said in a press release.

"I have spent my entire career in higher education, and I care passionately about the UA. But there always comes a point in life where you feel that it is time to try something new."

Shelton, who has been dealing with a Legislature unhappy with the UA's operation of its medical school, will take over another organization that's run into political trouble.

The Fiesta Bowl has been at the center of a scandal involving allegations of illegal campaign contributions to state lawmakers and extravagant spending.

Shelton, 62, is set to become the executive director of the college football bowl game on Aug. 1. As UA president, he has been a member of the presidential oversight committee for the Bowl Championship Series. The Fiesta Bowl is part of the BCS system.

The UA president's tenure at his current post has been complicated by state budget cuts that have forced tuition increases and program cuts.

"After a lot of conversation with my wife, Adrian, we felt that this was the right time for us to take on an exciting new challenge, and a good time to bring a fresh perspective to the leadership of the University," Shelton said.

"Most people recognize that the Fiesta Bowl brings thousands of people to our state for two prominent football bowl games – the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl," Shelton said."But many are less aware that the organization is one of Arizona’s most successful charitable enterprises, supporting dozens of local organizations and sponsoring numerous events throughout the year."

"I have been enormously impressed with the commitment of the Fiesta Bowl board, and believe that I am joining the organization at a time when we can make big strides in expanding the impact of their important work," Shelton said.

Shelton was hired by the UA in 2006. He has been paid $470,000 annually plus benefits. At the Fiesta Bowl, he will be paid $455,000 plus bonuses to replace the fired John Junker, who was paid $592,000.

"We are so fortunate that someone of Dr. Shelton's caliber has chosen to lead our organization," said the chairman of the Fiesta Bowl, Duane Woods, in a release.

"While we had an amazing number of talented applicants for this position, Dr. Shelton's impeccable record of integrity and his vast knowledge of collegiate academics and athletics are perfectly suited to restore trust and credibility with our volunteers, staff, community and key partners," Woods said.

"The Bowl has come through some difficult times, but with Dr. Shelton at the helm we believe our future is bright," Woods said.

Saying he was "sad to see Dr. Shelton leave UA," university athletic director Greg Byrne called the outgoing president "a wonderful boss and very supportive" in a Facebook post.

Shelton was congratulated on his new job by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Shelton "provided consistent leadership to the U of A and been a steady hand on the wheel during difficult economic and budgetary times. The Fiesta Bowl faces challenges of its own. I am confident that Dr. Shelton can be an asset in delivering his collegiate expertise, leadership and managerial skills to this important Arizona institution," Brewer said in a release.

The state Board of Regents is expected to name a temporary replacement for Shelton, and organize a nationwide search for a new UA president.

Shelton's resignation

A Message to the Campus Community From Robert N. Shelton

I write to you today with a bittersweet message.

For the past five years, it has been my honor to lead this great University. Despite the fact that my tenure as President has coincided with the most challenging economic time in modern Arizona history, we have accomplished an enormous amount. We've set records for enrollment each year, and each incoming class has been stronger academically and more diverse than the previous year's. We have initiated the Arizona Assurance as well as other financial aid and support programs to keep the UA affordable to all Arizona students and to increase their graduation rates. We have established a nationally recognized program to support returning veterans in their entry to university life and to the successful completion of their college degrees. We successfully launched a new medical school campus in Phoenix. Our research portfolio has risen dramatically, and fundraising has set records. We have the strongest bond rating of all Arizona public universities.

These past five years of my life have been years of passionate devotion to the University of Arizona, and its mission as a premier public research university and as our state's land-grant institution. My top priority during this daunting economic time has been to preserve and grow the quality of what we do at the UA, because it is the quality of our effort that sets this institution apart.

The five-year anniversary is a time of reflection and after considerable deliberation and consultation with my wife, Adrian, we recently made the difficult decision to begin exploring new options and opportunities to serve Arizonans.

Today I am announcing that I am leaving the University of Arizona to accept the position of Executive Director of the Fiesta Bowl. This is an opportunity to take over the leadership of a highly visible and important economic enterprise in our state. Most people recognize that the Fiesta Bowl brings thousands of people to our state for two prominent football bowl games – the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl. But many are less aware that the organization is one of Arizona's most successful charitable enterprises, supporting dozens of local organizations and sponsoring numerous events throughout the year.

I have been enormously impressed with the commitment of the Fiesta Bowl board, and believe that I am joining the organization at a time when we can make big strides in expanding the impact of their important work.

I leave the UA proud of what it stands for and what it means to Arizona's future. The Osiris-Rex grant, announced just two weeks ago, symbolizes the prominence of the UA in the sciences. We received it because of the quality of our faculty and the institutional commitment that has been made to support great science. It is why we are number one in the country in lunar and planetary research, and why we are currently ranked by the NSF as second in the nation in the physical sciences, behind only Cal Tech.

But it is not just the sciences that set us apart. Our programs in the arts have continued to generate the artists of the future, whose performances enrich the quality of life for Arizonans. Our scholars embrace the land-grant mission of serving the people of Arizona. University of Arizona faculty, whether in the physical, biological, social or behavioral sciences, working across disciplines with humanists, health sciences professionals, business and finance and legal scholars, architects and engineers, have all been intensively engaged in projects addressing the issues that matter to the citizens of our state.

Details about the transition will be forthcoming, but for now, let me just saythat I am so proud of the people who make this University great. To all of you – faculty, staff, appointed professionals, students – I offer my heartfelt thanks for your commitment to the values that set the University of Arizona apart. This has always been a place where integrity matters. It is a defining characteristic of our institution, and I know it will forever drive our culture.

We talk about being a Wildcat for Life, and that is truly how I feel. Adrian and I will forever hold this University dear in our hearts, and we will forever be indebted to all who made our time here so special.

Thanks to you all. And Bear Down.

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