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Robert Shelton leaves Arizona for Fiesta Bowl, so what's next?

By now you've heard that Robert Shelton, the University of Arizona president, has decided to leave this institution of fine learning for the greener (uh, more challenging maybe) pastures of the Fiesta Bowl, where he'll serve as executive director. Five years isn't long in the history of Arizona presidents, but Shelton left a lasting impression on the athletic department.

Of course, the fact that he's headed to the Fiesta Bowl, whose biggest of many events are of course the Fiesta Bowl BCS game and the Insight Bowl, means he's well-regarded in the sports world. In Tucson, he led the charge in hiring athletic director Greg Byrne while standing behind Byrne and basketball head coach Sean Miller as the program and coach tried to piece together a hefty contract in a rugged Arizona Board of Regents (not to mention the hire of Miller itself). That's a pretty good track record.

 "I have spent my entire career in higher education, and I care passionately about the UA," Shelton told the Daily Star. "But there always comes a point in life where you feel that it is time to try something new."

It's not like he's leaving for money. The Star writes that Shelton will receive a base salary of $455,000 in a four-year contract with the Fiesta Bowl. He was paid $470,000 as president at Arizona.

Because he was so sports savvy -- Shelton was a member of the BCS presidential oversight committee -- the loss could be a hit to a sports department looking to make vast improvements to its facilities. Will the new president be as willing to help out Byrne, who remains a large advocate for Shelton?

"He's passionate about it," Byrne told the Star. "He would have comments about the officiating, at football or basketball games, volleyball games. … We were at a volleyball game once and he was off and on about the officials. Not to where he was standing up, but he had concerns about it.


"He had a strong background in soccer, and he understands the strategy and the rules that go into sports."

With Shelton leaving, what's in the future? Said Byrne to the Star:

"With whatever you're in, you want your boss to have an interest in it, and in the athletic department, we were fortunate to have that be the case."

In today's Daily Star, Becky Pallack writes that a search committee will be created in choosing the next president of the university, and that comes with about a year waiting period where an interim president will call the shots. It comes at a scary and critical time for the athletic department. All the Wildcats can ask for is an equally understanding president who understands that sports aren't just a game. They're an attention magnet and a money-maker.