Questions linger on Lysko departure

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Mike Lysko might not have been pushed out of his job as director of athletics at the University of Western Ontario but there were some people more than willing to provide boxes to help him pack.

Lysko surprised many last month with the announcement he was leaving the university after three years. He still had two years left on his contract.

Lysko said family considerations played a major part in his decision. He wanted to explore other employment options closer to his wife's family in the United States.

The announcement and his departure was quick and relatively painless, or at least the outside appearance was such.

What's more surprising is given the substantial advances Lysko had made, he had the opportunity to ride what is certain to be a growing wave for the next two years.

While not everyone was a Lysko supporter, he put Western athletics back on the map, not only the university map but also the city's. During his tenure, the athletic facilities improved and there was an atmosphere of importance that was missing.

Even though technically the university is funded in part by public money, unearthing details of contract settlements is virtually impossible.

Neither Lysko nor the university would discuss the issue of whether Lysko was paid for the years remaining on his contract. Anyone who simply left of his own volition would be required to negotiate some severance. Unless of course both sides were happy to be done with each other.

Lysko, who is heading to Chicago early next week to explore one of three job opportunities, "politely declined" to discuss the situation.

Jim Weese, dean of health sciences, said, as a personnel issue, "I can't get into the details of it."

But he did say the Lysko departure was by "mutual agreement."

"Mike wanted to move on so the timing was right for us to do this," he said. "We were very fair with respect to the terms of his contract."

Weese said he was not surprised at Lysko's departure.

But for all his supporters, there were detractors.

Whether you liked Lysko or not, he got things done.

Any time you take a step forward, you are bound to disturb something. In order to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs. Use any cliches you like, but that's what Lysko did.

Many involved with athletics were happy Lysko was reviving the program, that he'd pushed to improve facilities not only at TD Waterhouse but also at Alumni Hall and Thames Hall, that he pushed to restore funding to teams that lost funding five years ago, that he supported scholarships for athletes, that he wasn't afraid to take a risk and push the envelope.

Lysko wanted athletics to get its fair share of the pie. He fought battles over concessions, beer, rent his teams paid on their own decades-old facilities, how money was spent and the importance of running athletics like a business.

But there were more than enough administrators who don't care about athletics in the first place.

Chuck Mathies, manager of athletics, will be the interim director of athletics. Weese says a new director won't likely be named until July.

"With this happening so quickly, many people who would like this job are committed to jobs for this year," Weese said. "We'll form a search committee to find a suitable candidate.

"But we wanted someone in place quickly to keep the momentum we have going."

That would be the wheels of progress and momentum set in motion by Lysko after years of spinning in place. It seems the squeaky wheel getting the grease is not a bad thing . . . not a bad thing at all.


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