Embattled University of Idaho president Chuck Staben will step down following the 2018-19 school year. The news comes as it was revealed that athletic director Rod Spear will remain on indefinite leave amidst an ongoing sexual misconduct investigation.
On Friday, the Idaho State Board of Education and president Chuck Staben announced what they called a mutual agreement for Staben to step down after the upcoming academic year.
Staben said the decision was unrelated to the investigation into Spear’s alleged misconduct, however the announcement of Staben’s departure follows a four-page letter sent earlier this month by 14 prominent university boosters to the State Board of education seeking Staben’s ouster.
According to the Idaho Ed News, the letter focused largely on Staben and his treatment of the athletics department. The letter describes Staben as dismissive and dishonest and decried Staben’s placement of Spear on administrative leave. “There has been no evidence presented to date that Rob Spear engaged in any wrongdoing or violated any laws or rules,” wrote the boosters, who identified themselves as members and former presidents of the Vandal Scholarship Fund, which raises money for U of I athletics scholarships.
On Thursday, Staben commented on the state of the investigation in a press release. “It is never easy to examine one’s own actions critically,” Staben said. “We know we have made improvements in how we approach sexual assault allegations but we need to know that we are doing all we can to keep our students safe. That is our number one priority.”
The letter from the boosters also questioned Staben’s character, as well as other decisions he’s made that have impacted the athletics department. “[Staben’s] lack of empathy regarding the impact of his actions, and his inability to be truthful to the students, the alumni, the public, and the (State Board), is causing serious harm to the university,” the boosters wrote.
The boosters also cited Staben’s decision to move the Vandals down from the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, noting that the move has contributed to a $1 million athletics deficit. “Staben is more concerned about building his brand as the anti-athletic establishment president than building a successful program.”
In a Friday letter discussing his departure, Staben touched on the shift back to the Big Sky Conference and the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision: “We’ve had disagreements about the appropriate place for our football program and other topics.”