Illinois Urbana-Champaign chancellor resigns; athlete lawsuits among issues

URBANA, Ill. -- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise said Thursday that she is resigning, citing a range of "external issues" that she says have become a distraction for the school.

Among the issues are complaints and a pair of lawsuits alleging mistreatment of athletes in three sports. Wise's resignation is effective Aug. 12.

In a release emailed to the campus and the media, Wise said she was proud of the work she and others had done since she took the position in 2011.

"Yet, external issues have arisen over the past year that have distracted us from the important tasks at hand," she said. "I have concluded that these issues are diverting much needed energy and attention from our goals. I therefore believe the time is right for me to step aside."

University President Timothy Killeen said he expects to name an interim chancellor within a week.

"I anticipate a smooth transition in leadership and dedicate myself to working closely with internal and external stakeholder groups," Killeen said in the release. Killeen, who has been president of the three-campus university system only since May, was traveling and not available for further comment, spokesman Tom Hardy said.

Complaints about alleged poor treatment by three former football players, seven former women's basketball players and a women's soccer player landed at Wise's door. The basketball and soccer complaints have led to pending lawsuits. Wise is athletic director Mike Thomas' boss, and she is named as a defendant in the basketball lawsuit.

Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wise's resignation.

A national search will be conducted for the next chancellor to run the Urbana-Champaign campus, Hardy said. That process usually takes six to nine months, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.