Prez to retire when successor found

Florida State president T.K. Wetherell handed in his letter of resignation and announced his plans to retire as soon as a successor can be found, the university announced Wednesday.

Wetherell, a former Florida State football player who stayed involved in the program since his tenure as president began in January 2003, cited health concerns and upcoming challenges facing the university as his reasons for leaving.

In a letter to board of trustees chairman Jim Smith, Wetherell said the timing is right to step down to pursue other interests, including teaching and spending more time with his family.

"This decision is based in large part on my belief that the next three years are going to be a highly crucial and challenging time for Florida State University," Wetherell, 63, said in a prepared statement. "My contract ends in the middle of that period, and I do not believe it would be a good idea for the university to change leadership at that point. I believe the university needs and deserves a strong leader who has the energy to be involved in the initial stages of the university's reorganizational process and the ability and desire to make a long-term commitment and comprehensive management decisions to move Florida State ahead in these challenging times."

A national search for a new president is expected to begin immediately, and Wetherell will be appointed as a tenured professor in the College of Education and president emeritus when his successor takes office.

Few university presidents have had as much of an impact on their athletic department as Wetherell, who played at Florida State in the 1960s. He was the driving force behind Florida State's decision to name offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as Bobby Bowden's successor. Wetherell was responsible for forcing out former athletic director Dave Hart and replacing him with Randy Spetman in early 2008. He has also been very vocal during the athletic department's ongoing appeal of the recent NCAA sanctions.

His close watch over the program, though, never bothered Bowden.

In addition to the sweeping changes he made to the athletic department, Wetherell also successfully navigated the university through a period of state budget cuts that totaled nearly $82 million since 2007. Wetherell, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees as well as a doctorate in education administration from Florida State, leaves the university after more than 35 years of experience in the state of Florida's educational system.

Heather Dinich covers the ACC for ESPN.com.