Northwestern University Athletic Director Mike Polisky resigns

Mike Polisky has stepped down from his role as the Northwestern University Athletic Director, Polisky informed President Morton Schapiro on Wednesday.

Polisky said in a letter to the Northwestern University Athletics and Recreation (NUDAR) staff that in the 10 days since he was appointed athletic director, he felt he would not be able to lead effectively in the current environment.

"My love and respect for Northwestern and for our student-athletes, coaches and staff are greater than my own desire to lead the department. I do not want to be a distraction to our incredible men and women as is pursues the collective goal of helping our student-athletes become the best they can be," Polisky said. "While my family and I are disappointed, I move forward knowing this is the right decision."

 Northwestern professors took a stand against the school's new athletic director last week and protested.

Some faculty members said Polisky shouldn't have the position, especially since he was named in a cheerleader's lawsuit against the school.  

A cheerleader is suing, saying she was part of a group that was sexually harassed. She says Polisky ignored her initial complaints.

"We need to listen to people of different backgrounds and identities and really have their voices heard," said Northwestern Professor of Anthropology Jessica Winegar, who was among those opposed to Polisky. "Mike Polisky's voice was heard, Morton Schapiro's voice was heard, and now the cheerleaders' voices are heard. We are not looking to cancel anyone's voices. But for too long, the voices of women and Black women in particular have been silenced."

Polisky was promoted after serving 10 years as Deputy Director of Athletics for External Affairs.

According to President Schapiro, Polisky’s important role in helping transform NUDAR into a model of excellence was a major contributing factor to appointing him on May 3.

"Today, Mike told me he is stepping down from his new role and leaving Northwestern," President Schapiro said. "I understand and respect his decision. I truly appreciate all Mike has done for the University."


President Schapiro has named Northwestern linguistics professor Robert Gundlach as interim athletic director until a permanent athletic director is named.

"I have selected someone outside of the Department of Athletics & Recreation to lead it on an interim basis," he said. "I am grateful that Professor Robert Gundlach has agreed to do so, just as he did in 2008 during another time of transition."

Since 2002, Professor Gundlach has been Northwestern's faculty athletics representative to the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference.

Polisky has served as Northwestern’s deputy director of athletics for external affairs since 2010.