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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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December 11, 2007 4:26 PM

Turner speaks on "resignation''

Posted by Bob Condotta

Here's more on today's big news as this is the story that should be posted on-line soon. This story includes some quotes from Todd Turner.

University of Washington athletic director Todd Turner resigned this morning, effective Jan. 31, 2008.

In a quickly called news conference, UW president Mark Emmert said that he had not been pressured by boosters, and that "there wasn't any one thing" that caused Turner to resign, instead saying he was no longer the "right fit'' for what the school needs know in an athletic director.

"We've got a lot of things going on right now, and again, Todd and I have been talking about it for some time,'' Emmert said. "He's been our AD for three-and-a-half years and he's done a lot of good and important things for the university. The program was in many ways in great disarray and Todd's done a great job of turning that all around. But we also have a lot of other things that need to get done in the athletic program, and for me this is a question of Todd, and for Todd as well, is this the right fit for Todd at this stage of his career. We concluded it would be better for the program and the university to make a change and if we were going to do it, there was no point in sitting around and doing it later.''

Scott Woodward, UW's vice president for external affairs, will step in as acting director when Turner leaves. A national search will be conducted for Turner's replacement.

Emmert said the controversy over last week's decision to keep Tyrone Willingham as football coach, something Turner wholeheartedly supported citing Willingham's rebuilding of the culture of the program as much as the won-loss record, was not a major factor in the decision.

When asked if Turner was more supportive of football coach Tyrone Willingham than he was, Emmert said that was "an inaccurate observation and people are making too much of that.''

"There was not any connection to coach Willingham's situation,'' Emmert continued. "He's going to be our football coach next year and I'm very happy about that.''

Turner, however, said the discussions about Willingham played a factor in the events of Tuesday.

"For me it did,'' he said. "It was just was enlightening about where our society, culture and support group has gone in their expectations of what constitutes a quality program on a campus of higher education.''

Turner said he was disappointed to no longer be the athletic director but agreed that the decision was mutual, saying the last few months had worn away some of his desire to keep the job.

"I just came to the realization that there is too much controversy in the air,'' he said. "It's taken a lot of the fun out of it for me and made it very difficult on the president and I'm at a point in my career where I don't have to be an athletic director to be happy or be successful.''

Turner was hired in 2004 to hired to help clean up the department after some scandals that led to the resignation of Barbara Hedges and Emmert lauded his work in that role Tuesday in helping the department get past the gambling-related firing of football coach Rick Neuheisel and a drug scandal that cost the job of softball coach Teresa Wilson.

Turner, 56, was hired in June, 2004, six months after Hedges had resigned. His contract ran through June of 2009 and he was paid a base salary of $345,000.

Turner will be paid his full salary through the end of his contract, a UW official confirmed.

But Emmert said the attributes that would allow someone to be a good fit "shifts over time.''

He hinted that what the school needed now was someone who could better raise funds for the department. Sources told the Times that some of the big-money donors to the school had also had doubts about Turner's ability to raise the funds needed for big projects.

Turner, however, defended himself on that account, saying that the athletic department's reserve had increased from $13.7 million when he arrived to $19 million today. He also said contributions had increased from $14.6 million to $26 million.

"If that's poor business management from a financial standpoint then I'm hard-pressed to understand your definition,'' Turner said.

Some also wondered if Turner's fate was sealed by the apparent struggles to make headway with the renovation of Husky Stadium, a project that remains in the early planning stages. An initial estimate of $415 for the project caused a review committee to decide that only a first stage costing $130 million be recommended to the UW Board of Regents --- UW has yet to raise any money for the renovation.

Turner defended the Husky Stadium project as well, however, saying the project is intentionally "being done backwards'' because of complexities of a SoundTransit station being built on Montlake.

"There's a thought that it hasn't gone as planned, but the stadium renovation is being done backwards and the reason is because of SoundTransit and no one is paying attention to that,'' Turner said. "We would never have talked so in-depth about what our vision was and what the timing was if we weren't up against a time frame that is not out of own making. .... We've not asked one person for one nickel for the football stadium by plan and the president has been with me 100 percent all along the way in that regard. So if there is disappointment about our progress on that, I've just got to say to you it was by design. ... They just didn't like the numbers, but those numbers are what they are --- no one invented them.

They were prepared by professionals and based upon a vision for the stadium that had lots of input from lots of people.''

Turner was also known to have rankled some Husky boosters in October when he used Oregon as a comparison for the kind of football program that UW needed to aspire to be --- a few disgruntled fans had recently begun Web site, firetoddturner.com.

Turner said he didn't think the comments were an issue with Emmert but admitted they were with some boosters.

"It wasn't meant to be disrespectful,'' he said. "It's just a fact that we've got to get better and there are people in our own league who are investing in their programs and doing things that give them a chance to take the leg up on us and we've got to respond to that.''

Some fans also questioned Turner's commitment to winning, citing his support of Willingham's changing of the culture of the program while going only 11-25 in three years at UW.

Turner said he would never say winning is not important, "but the message that our students hear, that our coaches hear, that our leadership hears from the general run-of-the-mill fan is that the only thing we really care about is how many games they win. And I have to look at that after 32 years of doing this and say 'wow, is that really what we are all about? Have I been that naïve all this period of time? I have been spending all my time on the student-athlete experience and trying to create better lives for people and the proper place in higher education when all I should have been worrying about is how many games we've won.' Why didn't I go to the NFL if that's all it's about.'''

Potential replacements for Turner could include:

*Former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos, who now lives in eastern Washington but would have to forfeit a $1.85 million 10-year non-compete deal made when he left the Ducks.

*Scott Barnes, UW assistant athletic director in charge of fund raising.

*Bob Stull, athletic director at UTEP whose ties with Washington date back to coaching under Don James from 1975-84.

*Mike Cragg, an associate athletic director at Duke and a 1986 graduate of Washington who is in charge of the Duke Basketball Legacy Fund.

*Jim Phillips, associate vice president./director of athletics at Northern Illinois, and a finalist for the UW position when Turner was hired.
*Chris Hill, athletic director at Utah, and also a UW finalist when Turner was hired.
Emmert said there was no timetable but that a new AD would be in "hopefully by spring.''

Turner said he had talked with Willingham and that the coach "was surprised.''

That was the reaction of many coaches, most of whom heard about it for the first time at a meeting Tuesday morning.

UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar praised Turner's handling of the department and said he was disappointed but that "I do understand that tough decisions have to be made at times.''

UPDATE --- I should also add that Woodward is a likely candidate for the AD job. another possibility is former Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart, someone Emmert knows well from SEC days.

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