SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Southern Athletics Director Tom Kleinlein has resigned from his position at Georgia Southern University.
Kleinlein reportedly informed university staff of his decision on Friday, Jan. 3. According to a release from the university, Kleinlein’s resignation will take effect on Jan. 21.
According to ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg, Kleinlein is expected to join the athletics staff at Ole Miss. Georgia Southern stated that Kleinlein resigned to pursue another professional opportunity.
Kleinlein was announced as GS athletic director in November of 2012. He was in charge during the move to the Sun Belt Conference and the merger of the GS and Armstrong State University athletic departments.
“Tom has made a tremendous impact on the growth and success of Eagle Athletics,” Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero said in a statement. “During his tenure at Georgia Southern, he stewarded our football program’s move to FBS; oversaw the department’s transition to the Sun Belt Conference; and enhanced our athletics facilities significantly, including a major stadium expansion and construction of a state-of-the-art football operations center. Under Tom’s leadership, we won numerous conference championships and added new athletic programs, while our student-athletes achieved record academic milestones. Eagle Nation will miss Tom greatly, but we are thrilled for his new opportunity and wish him the best.”
In a news release from the university Kleinlein stated, “I would like to thank Georgia Southern University as well as all of Eagle Nation for a great eight years. Statesboro has truly become a home for me and my family and we are sad to leave. We are also excited about new opportunities that await us. I feel like a lot has been accomplished in my time here, but it couldn’t have been done without the hard work and effort of all of the employees of this athletic department. I hope all of the student-athletes, coaches and staff members who have worked here during my time know how much they mean to me and I will forever be grateful I was able to serve and lead them.”
An announcement on an interim athletics director is expected soon, according to a release from GS. The university will be moving forward with a national search for a new athletics director.
Tom Kleinlein spent eight years as Athletic Director at Georgia Southern.
“The first move he made was while I was still there, moved the football team from Division-1 AA to Division-1, FCS to FBS," said former Eagles quarterback Russell Demasi. "We just saw that he had a bigger picture, bigger vision for the football program and wanted to go compete with the best of the best and he really sold that idea to us.”
Kleinlein hired current Georgia Southern head football coach Chad Lunsford, oversaw renovation projects totaling more than $36 million, and negotiated sponsorships with the likes of Coke and Adidas.
“It was just his vision to make everything on campus bigger and better for the student athletes," Demasi added. "Making Hanner [Fieldhouse] a little bigger, making Paulson [Stadium] bigger-they added the upper deck over there to the visitors side, they also built the football operations center...he was just continually trying to progress the program and I think that’s what people will remember the most about him.”
The university said it will move forward with a national search.
“You want a guy that’s going to come in there, or a female, that’s going to come in and leave the program better than it was when they got there," Demasi said.
While some viewed Kleinlein’s tenure positively, other’s appeared to be happy with a change, including this cryptic tweet from former quarterback Kevin Ellison.