Late Friday afternoon, long after most students had already departed campus after their finals had ended, Marquette University announced that Vice President and Director of Athletics Larry Williams had submitted his resignation to interim president Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., effective immediately.
The news comes as a surprise, as Williams had not been on the job for two full years yet. Of course, with the sudden departures of university president Scott Pilarz, S.J., and Executive Vice President Mary DiStanislao in the last three months, not to mention former university provost John Pauly stepping down to return to teaching at Marquette in May, I suppose nothing can truly be a surprise any more.
Even more so than Pilarz, Williams can be credited with a strong guiding hand that moved Marquette away from the old Big East conference, where the university's athletic fate was being determined by football, and into the new Big East conference. Williams was a key component in getting the Big East up and running for fall sports in less than 8 months, as well as securing the conference's new television deal with Fox Sports. If you need proof that Williams was a driving force in what has happened so far in the restructured Big East, look no further than the official Big East tweets that carry a go.mu.edu link in them. Marquette acting as the league's de facto media relations department didn't just happen on accident.
Andrei Greska of Paint Touches already largely beat me to the punch on this point, but I feel it should be reiterated here: Larry Williams had a short tenure as athletic director, but Marquette was incredibly successful on the field and court while he was occupying the big chair. Men's soccer, women's soccer, and men's basketball all made appearances in the Sweet 16 of their respective NCAA tournaments. All three of those sports plus women's volleyball all won regular season Big East titles, and the soccer and volleyball programs all won the Big East tournament championship this fall.
While the on the field success truly lies in the hard work of the coaches and players, it's the top down support of those programs that allow for that success to happen. Whether it come in the form of funding for new uniforms or equipment, or travel to take on the top programs in the country, or providing top notch academic support, it was clear over the last two years that Marquette was determined to have successful student-athletes in every sport in every sense of the term.
When Williams, a Notre Dame graduate, was hired, there were rumblings in some corners of the Internet about how people didn't want him turning Marquette into his alma mater. It's hard to say how serious these thoughts were, but this fact remains: When you consider that Notre Dame is a national power in nearly every single sport that they compete in, it's clear that Williams was doing his damndest to do the same for Marquette.
I, for one, thank Larry Williams for his efforts, even if they ended up being short lived, and I wish him well in his future endeavors.