University of Arizona President Robert Shelton’s announcement this week that he’s leaving the University of Arizona to become the executive director at the Fiesta Bowl may have surprised some people. But he said in a statement that his five-year anniversary as president was a good time to look for new opportunities.
Arizona Board of Regents Chairwoman Anne Mariucci said Shelton’s contract review was underway.
“In the world of academia generally you give an indication a year ahead of time as to the status of that. We’ve have been reviewing that, we’ve been open and transparent with Robert and with our board about that. I think the situation here is a win-win both for Robert, the regents, the university and the state," Mariucci said.
The regents have already formed a committee to work on what’s next, including appointing an interim president, she said. The next step will be a national search for a permanent president, Mariucci said.
"It is certainly a very plum position and we want to attract the highest-quality candidate that we can find in the market.”
Shelton's new job will focus on moving the Fiesta Bowl beyond the controversy it faced earlier this year, he said. The bowl was under public scrutiny and an internal investigation into misspending and political donations.
"I’m going to work very closely with the board, with the staff, with the volunteers to make sure that the reputation of the Fiesta Bowl is restored, I would say is as high as any organization in the state, and beyond. In the end when you live your life, and you go through it, it’s really your reputation, your integrity, the ethics that you’ve shown is what you have left. I’m very impressed with what this board has done so far, but they know and I know that it’s not done yet. You can fall quickly, and it takes a long time to get back up," Shelton said.
He has some ideas for improving the bowl’s reputation, including emphasizing some of its lesser-known activities.
“We are going to emphasize, as I said earlier, the totality of what this organization brings to Maricopa County and the state of Arizona, whether that’s through these great events that they put on, or equally importantly, the charitable activities, the philanthropic work, the educational work," he said. "Reaching out, making sure young people understand that they have a chance to engage not only in athletics, but in academics.”
Reactions to the news varied on campus. Lisa Gillis was attending a freshmen orientation session with her daughter.
“We heard about it this morning, and we’re just super-excited to have her come to school here next year. I don’t think it will have any impact in how we feel about that. There’s probably a dozen candidates that would love this job,” Gillis said.
Others, such as student Aldo Figueroa, expressed uncertainty about what’s next.
“I think also that it’s the end of an era. I don’t know how the transition is going to be, but they have to do it smoothly,” he said.
Karen Garcia said she’d like to see some changes in the next president’s priorities.
“I think probably someone not so focused on athletics, and perhaps more focused on education," she said. "After all, this is a university.”
Shelton starts his new position in August.