Kowalczyk to retire

Kowalczyk to retire

The man who bridged the gap in leadership for the Illinois athletic department from the time Mike Thomas was fired to the time Josh Whitman was hired will retire from the university.

Paul Kowalczyk will step aside as the Illini's executive senior associate athletic director, effective Aug. 31, following more than 30 years of working in college athletics.

Kowalczyk, who joined the Illini staff as senior associate athletic director in August 2012, filled in as Illinois interim athletic director on Nov. 9, 2015, the day Illinois fired Thomas.

He served that role until early March 2016 when Whitman, who was introduced as the Illinois athletic director on Feb. 18, 2016, was brought back to his alma mater to lead the athletic department.

"I want to thank Josh Whitman, who had enough confidence and trust in me to make me a part of his staff,” Kowalczyk said in a statement. “He’s the real deal, a class act, and it’s been an honor and privilege to work for him and this great university. I also wish to thank Mike Thomas for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to work at this great university."

Prior to his arrival at Illinois, Kowalczyk served as athletic director at Colorado State from 2006 to 2011 and as athletic director at Southern Illinois from 2000 to 2006.

Kowalczyk also had stints working in athletic administration at Northwestern, Kansas State, Portland State, Youngstown State and Kent State.

“I will miss, more than I can adequately explain, having Paul in the office next door to mine,” Whitman said in a statement. “Having sat in the athletic director’s chair at two previous Division I institutions, and having served as the interim AD at Illinois, Paul has been an invaluable resource and mentor to me as I have gotten my start here in Champaign. On the surface, his calm demeanor never wavered, but it masked a fiery competitor with a quick wit. He has been a tremendous friend and colleague, and I look forward to many more years of friendship."