On Tuesday, 10 years and one day after it was first announced that he was taking over from Mike Lude as athletic director, Housel announced his plans to step down as athletic director at the end of 2004 and then work one more year for the university as a fundraiser for Tigers Unlimited and for the university as a whole.
Housel, who had a contract to be athletic director through 2008, says that last September he first approached then president Dr. William Walker and told him of his desire to retire at the age of 60. The athletic director turned 58 this past fall.
Last week Housel met with interim president Dr. Ed Richardson and restructured his agreement with Auburn so that it would terminate at the end of 2005 with different duties for Housel's final year at the university.
"When you pass 50 you start thinking about how long you are going to work," Housel says. "Somewhere along the way, five or six years ago, I began to think about when I was going to retire and 60, for some reason, hit me as a good age for me.
"Sixty means you have had a good long career, especially if it has been at one place. I would still have some time, presumably, to do some things I want to do without the stress or strain of a daily job, especially a job like this one. So about that time, five or six years ago, I began to make sure of some certain contracts were beyond my planned time. One of them is the corporate partner program. It comes up in 2008, but you have to start the evaluation process and the sales process in 2007 to be ready for 2008. That is one.
"When I went through that Nike-Russell war the last time, I said, ‘I am not doing that again.' It is out after football season of 2006. Then the multi-media rights, we added a year on to that. I purposely did that so it would be 2007 when I didn't think I would be here.
"My contract had a rollover clause, and it rolled every, I think, April 1st," Housel says. "I talked to Dr. Walker back in the fall and said, ‘This thing is four years now and it runs to 2008. I don't want to work past 2006. Let's start talking about getting that rollover out of there. After the first of the year, 2006 is only two years away and we have got to start talking about transition to a new AD.'
"We talked in January and we had been talking since the fall," Housel says. "He approved the elements of the plan. The lawyers were working on the papers since there was a contract involved. Then he left and I gave it to Dr. Richardson at the first meeting we had on the NCAA basketball. He said he would look at it and he looked at it and said it was fine."
David Housel is shown at his office on Tuesday evening after announcing his retirement earlier in the day.
Housel says he doesn't expect or want any compensation past his retirement date even though he had a contract for two more years beyond that. "I want to retire in 2006 and I didn't ask for them to pay me the next two years," he says." Why should I ask them to pay me the next two years when my goal is to retire in 2006?"
The athletic director's job status has been the subject of much speculation since he and Dr. Walker plus two members of the board of trustees, Earlon McWhorter and Byron Franklin, admitted they secretly met with Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino to discuss the Auburn job held by Tommy Tuberville. The fact that the meeting happened the week of the Alabama game at night at a small airport in Indiana proved to be an embarrassment for both Petrino and the Auburn officials who made the trip.
"I wasn't taken back on the criticism of the Louisville trip because much of it was deserved, but the Proverbs taught us about criticism," Housel says. "Listen to the critics you need to listen to and let go of the ones you don't need to listen to. I think some criticism was very much deserved and in order."
No timetable has been set to name a successor. The normal procedure is to form a search committee and interview several candidates, a process that Housel participated in back in 1994. The current athletic director says he and Dr. Richardson mentioned that subject in their discussions. "We talked of a successor," he says. "We talked very briefly about it, but no substantive, serious discussions on it."
As a lame duck administrator, Housel says he will continue to make the day to day decisions of running the athletic department, but notes that Dr. Richardson will be calling the shots on major policy issues. "In any decision like that of a major coach, the president has to make that call," Housel says.
With there being a question on whether or not men's basketball coach Cliff Ellis will be back next season, Housel says that call will come from Richardson's office at Samford Hall. "He and I (Richardson) talked briefly," Housel says. "I will be as involved or uninvolved as the president wants me to be."
Prior to the Petrino incident, Housel rarely received major criticism for how he was running Auburn's athletic program, which has had a string of successes in recent years on the conference and national scene. However, that changed in late November with the Petrino incident.
When asked how he would grade the job he has done for Auburn, the former AU journalism instructor said, "I don't think it would be appropriate for me to grade my job performance. I think some people would give me an F and some people would give me an A, but that is the nature of these jobs--high profile, decision-making jobs. People have long memories. If you stay in a place for a long time, you are going to make decisions people like and you are going to make decisions that people don't like. If you make one they don't like, they are going to have long memories and that is human nature so I think my grading sheet would be all over the board. I am far more concerned about how my grade sheet will read 10, 15 or 20 years from now than I am 10 or 15 days from now."