Geiger Steps Down After 11 Years

The job has been rough on Ohio State director of athletics Andy Geiger the last two years. His contract runs through June 30, 2006, but Geiger couldn't wait that long. Citing burnout, he announced his pending retirement Wednesday.

Calling it, "my decision," Andy Geiger announced his retirement as Ohio State's director of athletics Wednesday.

He will hold the position for the rest of the school year and will then step down.

Geiger, 65, said he is burned out and no longer has enthusiasm for the position that he held for 11 years. He was hired April 29, 1994, and his tenure included several ups and downs, especially recently. However, overall, his career at OSU will likely be looked back upon as a success considering the winning coaches that he hired and the new athletic facilities that he helped create.

Prior to his arrival at OSU, Geiger served as the athletic director at Brown (1971-75), Pennsylvania (1975-79), Stanford (1979-90) and Maryland (1990-94).

Wednesday's press conference began with an opening statement from OSU president Dr. Karen Holbrook.

"We are here to announce that Andy Geiger has decided to retire as Ohio State's athletic director, effective June 30, 2005, one year before his contract ends with The Ohio State University," Holbrook said. "In light of recent developments, I've asked Andy to spend his remaining six months as athletic director addressed some of the important and difficult issues ahead of us. He will work with a provost on the structure of academic advising for student-athletes, and I am also asking him to work with the university's general council on the monitoring of compliance processes and to further our work on booster education.

"Andy and I hope that by addressing these matters, we can bring closure to some of these significant issues of recent months and position the Department of Athletics for the next phase of its development as one of the leading intercollegiate athletic programs in the nation."

Holbrook went out of her way to praise the work Geiger did at OSU.

"The Department of Athletics has faced many challenges and has experienced 11 years of remarkable and measurable accomplishment under Andy's leadership," she said. "A broad and diverse program for 1,000 student athletes in 36 sports, talented and committed coaches who are directing winning teams, state of the art facilities, sound finances and significantly improved academic performance, are his legacy to Ohio State.

"Today's announcement should be seen in the framework of an extraordinary tenure of leadership for which Andy has been recognized, and quite rightly, as one of the premier athletic directors in the nation."

There will be a national search for the new AD, which will begin immediately.

"Looking forward, I have asked dean Joe Alutto, of the Fisher College of Business, to serve as the chairman of the search committee for the new director of athletics," Holbrook said. "The committee, with faculty, staff, student and board representation – including our chairman of the board Tami Longaberger – will begin its work immediately to identify well-qualified candidates and to ensure a smooth transition between Andy and his successor."

After he steps down as AD, Geiger will spend the remaining year of his contract working in some type of administrative role.

"We are delighted that (Geiger) will continue his relationship in a new capacity until June of 2006, pursuing special projects including fundraising and significant interaction with students," Holbrook said.

Holbrook says she will miss working with Geiger.

"I'd like to add a personal note of my own that it's been nothing but a pleasure and an honor to work with Andy and to know Andy over the last two and a half years that I've been here," she said. "There are few people who I have known who have as high of standards as Andy does and have as much of commitment to values. I feel very grateful that I can count him as a colleague and a friend."

A reflective and emotional Geiger then made his opening statement.

"This is a bittersweet occasion," Geiger said. "This is my decision. Let me repeat that: it is my decision. After months of thinking about this, after 33 years as an athletic director at five fine universities, I find that my work is no longer fun and I do not look forward with enthusiasm to each day. Thus, it is time for me to change direction and time for Ohio State to seek new leadership for its Department of Athletics."

Geiger wanted to go out with his head held high, and that's what he believes he is doing.

"A friend wrote me a letter this week that contained this advice: ‘If you did nothing wrong, don't behave as you did.' I'm not running, I'm not hiding. Rather, I'm making a management decision that is best for me and is best for my family.

"I have had to deal with cumulative fatigue and weariness that inevitably comes with management of a very large, very public, athletic department. This is not serving me, or the programs, well. Controversy is always difficult. Clearly, we are dealing with some difficult issues and I will work with my colleagues to see them through to conclusion to the very, very best of my ability."

Geiger's emotions then got the best of him as he talked about his wife and sons. "Eleanor, Phil, Greg and I have enjoyed… we've enjoyed almost 11 years of life in Columbus and intense involvement in the life of The Ohio State University, through its athletics programs," he said. "I will leave a department that is staffed with coaches, staffed with administrators that are extraordinary. I'm very proud of them and what they are achieving every day.

"If there is to be a legacy, I wish it to be about people, not buildings or other things. However, I must say that the facilities are in fine shape. The department is fiscally sound and I believe the future is very bright for all of our sports. I shall do all in my power to insure the future.

"The athletic directorship at Ohio State is one the premier positions in our field in this country. The university commission, faculty, staff, students and alumni support our programs energetically and with a compassion that includes embracement and criticism. And that is just right."

According to Geiger, OSU football coach Jim Tressel is one of the best in the business.

"During the 2004 season, our football team demonstrated its capability on the field and in the classroom," Geiger said. "The academic performances of the individuals continue to improve, and the level of play on the field improved dramatically. Jim Tressel has my respect and admiration. He and I have already met twice since the bowl game to begin a renewed effort in balancing the need to keep the student-athletes isolated from the worst sense of boosterism, and yet be engaged in the community in positive and healthy ways.

"If either of my sons were talented enough to play football at this level, I would have no qualms of him being a part of this team."

Geiger then talked in detail about his future responsibilities at OSU. "During my final months as director of athletics – as Dr. Holbrook has already outlined – I will be working with my colleagues within the department and the university to accomplish a very important agenda," he said. "It is urgent at this time that we take greater steps to integrate the Department of Athletics as fully as possible with emission with the university. We will create and execute a more comprehensive booster education program, which has already been assigned. Task force is already working on it, and it will commence with the first mailings for the 2005 football season and those mailings will start on or about the first of February.

"In addition to those efforts, I will continue to manage the department of athletics on a daily basis until June 30, or the appointment of a new director if that comes sooner.

"Then, for the duration of my time at Ohio State (July 2005-June 2006), I will be assisting with the fundraising for the additions to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the new tennis center, the rolling boathouse on the Scioto River and renovations of our softball stadium. In addition, I will assist with other development efforts, and possibly work with students as a resource in parting knowledge and experience gained through 43 years of work in intercollegiate athletics.

"I know that this is the right thing to do. I will always treasure my time here and I will always be a Buckeye."

The floor was then opened for questions.

* Geiger on what he will miss most about the job, and what he will miss least.

"Well, this is going to sound a little silly, but I'll miss everybody in this room. We've interacted with the media during good times, and during times that weren't so good. I think that most of time we've had a healthy respect for each other and that part of life is part of what I do with my job.

"I think I'll miss the coaches and the student athletes down the road most of all. That's the product. That's what we do. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Alamo Bowl. I thought the way the team played was extraordinary. I enjoyed watching a men's basketball game, a women's basketball game, and an absolutely sensational hockey game that ended in a 2-2 tie. Knowing that I was doing this, that made my heart heavy and made me as emotional as I've been today.

"I think I'll miss least the environment that was evident here after we lost three (consecutive) football games this year."

* Holbrook on whether she tried to talk Geiger out of retiring.

"This is a decision that Andy has been ruminating for several months. Andy and I have talked about it off and on and there's been several times where he wanted to announce it earlier than he is today and I've talked him out of it for a whole variety of reasons during this season and he's been wonderful in agreeing to continue on.

"At this point, I think it was only fair to let him make his decision as he wanted to do it."

* Holbrook on if Archie Griffin could be a possible replacement for Geiger.

"We have no candidates for the position right now. As I said, we will be doing a national search and we will be looking at all of the best-qualified people from across the nation."

* Geiger on possible sanctions for the football program and what role he will play in working with the NCAA.

"We will be eagerly working with the NCAA on whatever they are doing. They haven't made it clear, at all, as to what the activity will be. I intend to be the leader of the athletics program until June 30, or until someone is named and comes on board before them. So, I will continue to be a spokesperson."

* Geiger on elaborating on why the job was no longer fun for him.

"I'm just tired. Just bone weary. Not the kind of tired that a good night's sleep fixes. Different kind of tired. I'm burned out, I guess is what they call it in industry."

* Geiger on why he is not riding it out through NCAA investigations.

"It's easy to find all kinds of reasons to postpone the step that I am announcing today. I just got to the place where I didn't want to postpone it anymore.

"This is a big, big job in intercollegiate athletics. This is a plumb. I think that a national search and a patient – my friends in the media – a patient search process is very, very important. That's why we are doing this now to announce that June 30, I'm not going to be here anymore. The investigations, if there are any and whatever they might be, have no bearing on this. Finding the very best person to be the next athletic director has everything to do with it. And making sure there is a long enough runway to get this accomplished."

* Geiger on if Tressel might be interested in the dual duties of football coach and AD, much like he did at the end of his tenure at Youngstown State.

"No, there's been no conversation with him about that. I talked to him about an hour ago and we talked more about recruiting than anything else."

* Geiger on if he thinks Tressel could handle both jobs.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on that. That's for the search committee and the university to decide, not for me."

* Holbrook on whether the head football coach could feasibly be the athletic director as well.

"I think that's, again, something that the search committee is going to have to look at each candidate on his or her own merits and evaluate the situation. I agree completely with what Andy has said."

* Holbrook on what qualities she would like to see in the new AD, and if she would prefer if it were someone with ties to the university.

"I think if I would pick the ones I would want people with very high standards, with strong integrity, and very good experience. As Andy has pointed out, this is a very big job, a very tough job and it's a job where you need somebody with those two values along with experience. And then we will turn it over to the search committee who will continue to define the job description."

* Geiger on if his departure will in any way affect Tressel's situation at OSU.

"I think Jim Tressel's record and his performance is its own evidence. There were a lot of questions wondering if going from I-AA to I-A was too big of a leap and all of those kinds of things. I think those questions have been answered. I see nothing but a bright future for Ohio State football."

* Geiger on whether the NCAA investigations could put Tressel in jeopardy at some point.

"I do not think I should prejudge an investigation or comment on it any further than has already been commented on. I have said before that I have confidence in our people and our processes and I continue to have that."

* Geiger on how the job has changed over the last 11 years.

"I think the job for every D-I athletic director has changed as we have become more sophisticated with technology, as we have media that is devoted only to sport, as we have Internet communication, Internet people involved in recruiting, Internet people involved in all kinds of things. That alone has made the compliance issues, such as Internet gambling, all of that has really changed the landscape for all of us that are in the business and it is a major thing to talk about when we get together."

* Geiger on what his replacement's biggest challenge will be. "The biggest challenge every day is dealing with the intensity of interest in these programs. That is always the challenge."

* Geiger on what he and his wife will do after he is officially retired.

"Probably after Greg graduates from high school (2006), we've purchased a place in western Washington – way western Washington. Across Puget Sound from Seattle and then some. So, it's a beautiful place and we're looking forward to a life there."

* Geiger on the possible national perception that he is stepping down simply because of the off the field problems in football and basketball.

"I can't help how people perceive this. But I know the truth. I know what reality is. I could be one that hangs around, and hangs around, and hangs around until it is too late. I vowed that I would never in my life do that. It's time for new leadership in the athletics program at Ohio State and I'm exiting because I want to."

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