BOISE, Idaho — Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier, the man behind the iconic blue turf at the school’s football stadium and credited with a large role in the team’s rise to national prominence, has been let go as the school faces sanctions because of violations in the football program and other sports.
University President Bob Kustra announced Wednesday that Bleymaier’s career of 30 years at the school will end Sept. 8.
“I did not come to this decision lightly,” Kustra said in a statement. “After a careful management review and discussions about the future of the program, I determined that new leadership will be needed as we commit ourselves to the highest level of attention and enforcement of NCAA standards, and also continue to move Boise State athletics to the next level of success.”
The football violations under review were committed between 2005 and 2008. The program already is dealing with several self-imposed penalties, including fewer scholarships for the next two years and reduced practice time.
The 57-year-old Bleymaier told The Associated Press he met with Kustra last Thursday for 30 minutes and lobbied to keep his job, but wasn’t successful.
“I did let him know that I wanted to stay, and I think he knows that I’m very disappointed,” said Bleymaier, noting he had anticipated finishing out his professional career at Boise State. “We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do here in my time.”
The NCAA hasn’t announced whether even tougher sanctions will be imposed against the university. School administrators have said they believe the self-imposed penalties, which include a three-year probation period and steps to bolster its compliance office, will satisfy the NCAA.
“I was told by President Kustra that his decision is predicated on the confidence level he believes he needs to have as president in the university’s compliance operations during an NCAA probationary period,” Bleymaier said.
The football sanctions are part of a broader penalty package put in place by university officials for violations that also involve men’s and women’s tennis, and track and field. An NCAA inquiry and an internal investigation by the school identified 22 infractions and an absence of institutional controls necessary to fully comply with rules governing collegiate athletic programs.
The university’s 1,500-page response to the NCAA details a series of “secondary” violations by football staff during a four-year period. During that time, coaches arranged for incoming players to get cheap transportation, meals and housing during voluntary summer workouts. The report states 63 prospective players received those benefits, valued at less than $5,000.
Bleymaier has said the university issued a letter detailing the rules to football coach Chris Petersen and his staff and put new rules in place to protect against future offenses.
Bleymaier grew up in Southern California but moved to Boise as a senior in high school. He returned to California to go to college and get a law degree. He was back in Boise and on campus in 1981, and took over as athletic director a year later. He guided the Broncos through their transition to Division I-A in football in 1996, a pair of stadium expansions and their rapid rise to prominence in the last decade.
And he was the spearhead behind the decision to put down blue turf in Bronco Stadium, giving Boise State a signature that’s now part of every marketing tool the university uses.
Besides the football team, the men’s tennis program and women’s track and field programs have committed similar secondary violations. The university is cutting scholarships and imposing recruiting restrictions for track and field and reducing practices and eliminating bonuses in 2011 and 2012 for the head men’s tennis coach.
The women’s tennis team lost three scholarships for 2011 and in 2012, was fined $5,000 and has had practice time reduced. The team will also vacate all wins and records for matches involving an ineligible player during the 2008-09 season.
Bleymaier said he stands behind his handling of the infractions and the internal investigation that was done by the university.
“We have been commended regarding how we have handled the investigations and review from start to finish,” he said.