Saying he had been unfairly caught up in the investigation of his former boss, Mike Ellis resigned as the University of Minnesota’s senior associate athletics director.
Ellis took voluntary leave at the U’s request Aug. 21 pending an investigation into unspecified, anonymous complaints against him in the wake of the Aug. 6 resignation of Norwood Teague, who had admitted that he sexually harassed two university employees.
Ellis recently returned to work for a couple of days but decided he would rather accept one of several pending job offers that he has received, said his attorney, Christopher Madel.
Ellis said in his resignation letter that he was “pleased that the University has made no disciplinary findings against me, and that no discipline has been imposed or proposed against me related to any ongoing investigation.” He added that he was not surprised, “as I have done nothing wrong.”
According to Ellis’ letter to interim athletics director Beth Goetz, he will be paid through Nov. 20.
A U spokesman confirmed that Ellis had resigned but declined further comment.
Teague hired Ellis in July 2012. They had worked together at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ellis spent 13 years with VCU men’s basketball staff before moving into administration in a marketing and development role.
At the time of Ellis’ hiring, the U touted him as “the founder of the ground-breaking Villa 7 consortium and one of the most influential individuals in basketball.”
Villa 7 is largely a job networking event for basketball coaches to meet with athletic directors. Nike, a sponsor, has not responded to requests for comment.
The U’s costs associated with Villa 7 rose significantly during Ellis’ three years in Minnesota. It spent about $37,000 to host Villa 7 in fiscal 2013, jumping to nearly $55,500 last year. The U said that Villa 7 had no budget, nor any cost-sharing agreements with Nike for the event. The athletics department paid the bills as they were submitted, though it got no branding rights for the event.
University spokesman Chris Werle said the school will not bring Villa 7 back.
Teague and Ellis “were the ones who knew it and knew how to put it on,” he said. “I don’t know that we here would want to continue it without all of that institutional knowledge.”
Madel said that Ellis had several job offers while on leave.
“One of the offers that he got was with a very big-name apparel company — but it’s not Nike,” he said. “He got another offer from a sports agent. And he had another offer from a university. He’s less inclined to work for any universities — he’s just sick of them.”
Madel said the sexual harassment allegations were “all about Teague” and had nothing to do with Ellis.
Asked about allegations that Ellis had been seen sharing porn on his cellphone, Madel said: “If I send you a text message with a naked woman on it, do you have porn on your cellphone? What if you never even responded? What if you just deleted it because you knew it was wrong?”
That allegation had nothing to do with Ellis’ decision to resign, Madel said. He said there was no discipline pending, none threatened and none proposed.