On May 14, 14 prominent Vandal boosters delivered a scathing four-page letter to the State Board of Education, seeking President Chuck Staben’s ouster.
The letter focused largely on athletics — and Staben, who the boosters described as dismissive and dishonest.
“(Staben’s) lack of empathy regarding the impact of his actions, and his inability to be truthful to the students, the alumni, the public, and the (State Board), is causing serious harm to the university,” wrote the boosters, who identified themselves as members and former presidents of the Vandal Scholarship Fund, which raises money for U of I athletic scholarships.
Eleven days later, Staben was on his way out the door. On Friday, the State Board said Staben would leave the U of I after the 2018-19 school year — calling it a mutual decision.
It’s unclear whether the boosters’ pressure factored into Friday’s news; on Tuesday, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler said the board will not elaborate on its terse statement announcing Staben’s pending departure.
But the boosters had plenty to say. A few talking points from the letter, which Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman reported on Friday:
- They said Staben’s decision to move the Vandals down from the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision has contributed to a $1 million athletic deficit. The boosters wrote: “Staben is more concerned about building his brand as the anti-athletic establishment president than building successful program.” In a Friday letter discussing his departure, Staben touched on the shift back to the Big Sky Conference and the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision: “We’ve had disagreements about the appropriate place for our football program and other topics.”
- They criticized Staben for placing Athletic Director Rob Spear on administrative leave, while the U of I is investigating sexual misconduct complaints in the athletics department. “There has been no evidence presented to date that Rob Spear engaged in any wrongdoing or violated any laws or rules,” the boosters wrote. Staben has said his departure is unrelated to the ongoing investigation.
- The boosters also say budget shortfalls are threatening the U of I’s colleges of natural resources and agriculture. They blame the budget crisis on Staben, saying resident enrollment has dropped during his four years as president. “These shortfalls cause an endless cycle of asking the (State Board) for tuition increases, and thereby pricing the University out of the reach of many potential students.”
Staben is not commenting on his departure, U of I spokeswoman Jodi Walker said Tuesday morning. The U of I did not have an immediate response to the boosters’ letter.