Robert Shelton resigns as director of Fiesta Bowl

Robert Shelton took over as executive director of the Fiesta Bowl in June 2011.

Chris Morrison-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Shelton announced his resignation Tuesday as executive director of the Fiesta Bowl to return to his professional roots as president of Tucson-based Resarch Corporation for Science Advancement.

Shelton left the presidency of the University of Arizona in June 2011 to take over as the chief executive of the bowl game in the wake of a criminal investigation involving his predecessor, John Junker, and other high-ranking bowl officials.

Shelton told the Arizona Republic that it was a mutual decision but acknowledged that some members of the bowl’s executive board had approached him about stepping down.

 "The board and I are in agreement on this," Shelton told the Republic. "The issue was what profile should the organization have going into the College Football Playoff era, and they wanted to put a lot of emphasis on marketing."

Shelton’s appointment came at a time when the bowl’s tarnished image jeopardized its standing among the nation’s elite postseason games. An investigation revealed that bowl officials had illegally reimbursed employees for campaign contributions to bowl-friendy politicians and misspent bowl funds for personal use. His efforts at reforming the culture enabled the Fiesta Bowl to remain part of the Bowl Championship Series and, moving forward, the College Football Playoff. In December, the Fiesta Bowl was chosen to host the 2016 College Football National Championship game.

"He was the ideal person at a crucial time in our history, and we are deeply grateful for his contributions," Fiesta Bowl chairman Brian Hall said. "He has done a tremendous job setting us up for the new playoff system and it is now the Board’s job to take the lead in preparing our organization to best meet the future."

In a statement released by the Fiesta Bowl, Shelton said it was a natural transition point for the organization: "I thank the Fiesta Bowl’s 2,900 volunteers, including the Board of Directors, for the opportunity to help restore this wonderful community institution. I have truly enjoyed serving the organization during a difficult time and feel confident we have placed the organization in a solid position for the future."

Hall said a national search for a permanent replacement would begin immediately. Duane Woods, who served as the Chairman of the Board from 2010-12 and was instrumental in hiring Shelton, will serve as interim executive director.

Shelton’s base salary was $455,000, with incentives that could bring his total compensation to about $620,000, according to the Republic.