In what can only be described as an oddly-timed announcement, coming on the heels of the release of the Big East basketball schedule today and the always-popular "Buzz's BBQ" meet-and-greet yesterday evening, news broke this afternoon that Marquette athletic director Steve Cottingham had resigned from his duties, effective immediately, to "pursue other interests." Cottingham leaves after four years on the job, having first taken the gig on an interim basis before being promoted to the permanent post the following year.
Maybe the news wasn't surprising to some, given the punches that the University's absorbed in recent weeks with the allegations of sexual assault levied against certain student-athletes and the scathing (if slanted) article that followed in the Chicago Tribune, but what caught me off guard was Marquette's apparent acknowledgment of the role those allegations played in Cottingham's resignation. For some reason, the University picked this single line from Cottingham's resignation letter to Marquette President Fr. Robert Wild to include in its press release:
"Although recent events involving a few student-athletes have certainly been a disappointment to me, I leave Marquette with positive feelings and confidence in its future."
I don't know how long Cottingham's resignation letter was, but I'm assuming it was more than those 25 words, and if I'm right in that assumption, Marquette couldn't have picked a worse line to plaster on its release. With that single sentence, Marquette -- incredibly and unnecessarily -- all but confirmed the speculation that Cottingham was the fall guy for the fiascoes of the last few months.
Maybe I shouldn't be taken aback by this; given the recent PR catastrophes at Marquette -- including, by way of example, the University's unflinching concession that it's been violating State law for the last ten years in reporting alleged sex assaults to the Milwaukee Police Department -- I might have been expecting too much with a simple: "Mr. Cottingham has decided to move on. We thank him for his service and wish him well." But for the life of me, I don't see the rhyme or reason in running that quote.
Perhaps we'll learn more about what happened today in the coming weeks or months, but I kind of doubt it. For now, anyway, I'm left with the feeling that Cottingham got stuck with the tab for a problem that he didn't create.