But Tharp had been under fire since the spring with the so-called CU recruiting scandal became national news, prompting the university to form an independent investigative panel and hire a consultant, who spent three months observing the goings on inside the athletic department.
After its investigation, the panel questioned Tharp's ability to lead the CU athletic department, and the consultant, John DiBiaggio, recommended that CU president Betsy Hoffman relieve Tharp of his duties.
Instead, Hoffman rearranged the channel of authority at CU regarding athletics, placing Tharp and the department under the supervision of CU Provost Phil DiStefano, a move also part of the panel's recommendations.
Last week, it was discovered and reported that a little known booster fund called the Dear Old CU Fund had been in operation since 1998. The fund has reportedly been used for Gary Barnett's football school. DiStefano said the fund's existence would be reported to the NCAA in case it was a violation of NCAA rules.
The round of stories last week in light of the fund seemed to be the last straw. Tharp, in his 34th year at CU and ninth year as athletic director, offered his resignation to DiStefano earlier this morning. But Tharp wrote that his departure was not an admission to any wrongdoing, and wrote that the record will bear that out.
Tharp also wrote that in recent months he found himself "increasingly segregated, restricted in my ability to manage, and silenced. This has been the most frustrating experience of my life."
Tharp did not meet with the press Monday. However, his letter of resignation was released to the media. The following is the content of that letter:
Dear Phil: Having been informed that the leaders of this University have decided in favor of my departure, I hereby offer to resign and retire early from my position of Director of Athletics effective November 30, 2004. My offer should not in any way be construed as an admission to having engaged in any activity of wrongdoing. When completely investigated, the record will show that I performed my duties responsibly and in the best interests of the Department of Athletics and the University of Colorado.
Why have I not made this offer earlier? I am fully aware of the fact that various parties have called for my resignation. And yet a mere change in personnel rarely provides a remedy or solution for complex problems. This is especially true when change is conducted purely as an exercise in selecting one party to blame. I remained in my position to seek and implement solutions. In truth, I have found myself increasingly segregated, restricted in my ability to manage, and silenced. This has been the most frustrating experience of my life.
I have learned from years of experience that, at a certain point, the fight over the individual will drain energy from the cause of making the best arrangements for the University's students and programs. In the matter of Intercollegiate Athletics, we may now have reached that point. In the current state of distrust of a concern over the operations of this University, healing might be better achieved by my resignation.
It is my hop that the citizens of this state will revive their enthusiasm for the talented student athletes and for their flagship university.
Regrettably, the University of Colorado has come to occupy center stage as society questions the role of Athletics in universities. This presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to lead the nation in strategies to integrate academics and athletics in a productive and positive way. I hope that the effort to live up to this opportunity will set the course for the University in the next months ahead. This cannot happen without the will to move beyond reacting to circumstances and to make decisions. Solutions to complex problems require a deep understanding of the choices facing us and a clear picture of the goals of the University in hosting a competitive Intercollegiate Athletic program. The commitment, to achieving excellence in this and every other program of this wonderful University, cannot waver.
I have been fortunate to have an association with this institution and its dedicated staff and faculty for over 34 years. I will remain grateful for the rewards of being in the company of young people as they strive to learn and succeed.
Richard A. Tharp
Interim AD Will Be Hired as Search Begins
CU Provost Phil DiStefano said Monday he, CU Chancellor Richard Byyny and CU President Betsy Hoffman accepted Dick Tharp's resignation.
In a prepared statement, DiStefano praised Tharp for his part in developing the Athletics 2010.
DiStefano also wrote that "among the next steps will be the process of selecting an interim Athletics Director who will lead the department as we conduct a national search for the permanent position.
In May, CU administrators announced hierarchical changes involving the athletic department. Since then, Tharp had reported to DiStefano. The move was an effort to integrate the athletic department more fully with the rest of the university, and allow high-ranking CU administrators more supervision over the department.
DiStefano wrote the university remains committed to "the integration of athletics into the campus, the well-being of student-athletes, a clear understanding of expectations and accountability, an emphasis on ethical conduct, and competitive performance with integrity and sportsmanship.