CARBONDALE — SIU athletic director Liz Jarnigan is being let go after less than two years on the job, according to two sources close to SIU who spoke to The Southern Illinoisan on Thursday night.
Jarnigan's dismissal was effective immediately Thursday night, the sources said. University spokesperson Kim Rendfeld would not confirm or deny the news when reached by phone Thursday night, but said there would be a statement Friday. SIU sports information director Tom Weber referred all questions to Rendfeld on Thursday night.
Jarnigan, a former athletic administrator at the Air Force Academy, joined SIU in 2018 under former athletic director/Hall of Fame coach Jerry Kill. When Kill left to join Virginia Tech's football coaching staff in September 2019, interim chancellor John M. Dunn appointed Jarnigan as the new athletic director.
During her first year at the university, Jarnigan helped Kill reshape Saluki Athletics, hiring men’s basketball coach Bryan Mullins, and six more head coaches — Grant Williams (Soccer), Rosalind Joseph (Track & Field), Ed Allen (Volleyball), Danielle Kaufman (Women’s Golf), Geoff Hansen (Swimming & Diving) and Lance Rhodes (Baseball). She also assisted in the reorganization of the department’s administrative structure. Jarnigan, a former volleyball coach, serves on the NCAA Olympic Sports Liaison Committee with a term of service that runs through Aug. 31, 2023.
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Sources told The Southern Jarnigan was informed by new SIU Chancellor Austin Lane on Thursday night. Lane started at SIU in July 2020 after serving as the president of Texas Southern University.
Jarnigan came to SIU after serving for two years as senior women administrator for the Air Force Academy's athletics program. Prior to that, she worked for eight years at San Jose State University, starting as the director for student-athlete success before being promoted to senior woman administrator. During her tenure at San Jose State, the department's overall Academic Progress Rate (APR) rose from 925 to 972. The football team's APR increased from 888 in 2008 to 975 in 2015. The overall student-athlete GPA reached an all-time high in 2016.
Jarnigan faced incredible hurdles less than a year into the job when COVID-19 virtually shut down attendance for the 2020-21 school year. SIU could only offer staff and players' family members admission to the games because of state laws that restricted its attendance. The Salukis haven't had any restrictions, yet, to offering full attendance for fans this season.
Reached by phone Thursday night, Jarnigan referred any questions to her attorney.
Jarnigan signed a contract in December 2019, three months after she was appointed to the position, that goes through September 2023. With an annual salary of $221,000 a year plus possible university cost-of-living raises, SIU could be on the hook for more than $440,000 to Jarnigan. She or the university could terminate the deal for just cause or one not fulfilling its duties, according to the contract, which The Southern obtained earlier this year. If Jarnigan notified the university of a breach of her contract, it has 30 days to remedy the situation or would be forced to pay her the remainder of her salary through September 2023. If the university fired Jarnigan for what's called just cause, which can include her breaking an NCAA or conference rule or knowing about someone on her staff breaking a rule and not reporting it, SIU would not be required to pay her anything further, according to the deal. It's not clear if either party broke the terms of the deal.
The details of the breakup may never be known, either. There is a disparagement clause in the deal that states anybody with the university or Jarnigan can't discuss the terms of ending the contract without the other one's consent, essentially. Any statement by either party must be agreed to in writing by both parties.
On Twitter: @THefferman