By Courtney Sherwood
PORTLAND Oregon (Reuters) - The University of Oregon named an interim president on Thursday after the abrupt resignation of Michael Gottfredson, whose tenure saw accusations of rape against three basketball players and tough union negotiations with professors and staff.
Gottfredson's departure coincides with the establishment of a new board of directors for the university, located in Eugene, after a turbulent period.
"I accepted the job as president of this great institution with the clear objective of helping the university manage through a period of uncertainty and get to a place of stability," Gottfredson said in a statement on the University's website. "We have accomplished those objectives and I know that the UO is on the right course."
Gottfredson will receive a $940,000 severance package from the university, trustee Chuck Lillis said on Thursday, following a meeting at which the board accepted the resignation and appointed university provost Scott Coltrane as interim president.
During his two-year tenure, Gottfredson faced an NCAA investigation, the birth of a new faculty union and questions about the university’s handling of alleged sexual assaults by athletes.
In May, Gottfredson said that three University of Oregon basketball players who were accused of rape had been dropped from the team, despite a decision by prosecutors not to charge them criminally.
Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner, in announcing that he would not file charges in the case, had said all three players told police they had consensual sex with the woman, who was not identified, but she said it was not consensual.
The new board of directors had considered asking Gottfredson to stay on while they sought his replacement, but ultimately opted to have the president depart immediately, Lillis said.
The new board of trustees for the University of Oregon was created July 1 under an act of the state legislature. Previously, a single board had overseen every state-chartered Oregon university.
Gottfredson "felt that, given the history, it was appropriate that this new group of trustees have an opportunity to have a president they might want to have," Lillis said.
"He’s been very gracious" about the resignation process, Lillis said.
When he announced his resignation on Wednesday, Gottfredson said he was leaving to spend more time with his family and to focus on scholarly pursuits.
(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Clarence Fernandez)