Originally created 01/17/04

Auburn president resigns after rancor over search for coach



AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn president William Walker resigned Friday after enduring heavy criticism for the way he botched a football coaching search.

Walker's resignation came two days after he met with Gov. Bob Riley to discuss problems facing the school.

The 66-year-old Walker, who had been president of the university for 19 months, said he hoped his resignation would "mark the beginning of a new day at Auburn."

There was no immediate word on who would succeed him on an interim basis, but executive vice president Donald Large was expected to handle duties until a decision is made.

Walker, athletic director David Housel and two trustees secretly flew to meet with Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino on Nov. 20, two days before Auburn played Alabama. Neither Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville nor Louisville officials were informed of the trip, and a firestorm of criticism erupted when it became public.

In the end, Tuberville got a one-year extension to stay on as coach.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools also placed Auburn on 12-month probation, saying the university had not prevented a minority of trustees from micromanaging the school.

"I am hopeful that my decision to step down as president will mark the beginning of a new day at Auburn and that all members of the Auburn family will put aside their differences and work together to refocus Auburn on its true land grant mission of instruction, outreach and research," Walker said.