Twenty-four hours after saying that resigning would be an admission of guilt, Eddie Sutton on Sunday announced his resignation as Kentucky basketball coach.
He insisted he was not forced to resign and that he is innocent of any wrongdoing in connection with 18 National Collegiate Athletic Assn. allegations against the program.
Rumors of Sutton’s resignation, or possible firing, had circulated since last October, when the NCAA announced its charges.
Sutton, who Saturday had repeated his intention to remain as coach, said he changed his mind because of the increasing rumors about his status. One such report, which surfaced last Friday, said Sutton had offered to fire his assistants if he would be retained.
“These instances have popped up and I think they will continue to do that, and I think people are going to get hurt and I can’t see doing that,” he said.
During a news conference, Sutton said he made his decision Saturday night after consulting with his family and doing “a lot of praying.”
He met Sunday with university president David Roselle, who, according to the coach, accepted the resignation and expressed thanks for Sutton’s dedication to the program.
During his own news conference Sunday night, Roselle said the question of Sutton’s resignation had come up in a meeting last Wednesday at the president’s residence on the Kentucky campus.
“We talked about it (resignation)--what was good for the program,” Roselle said of the session, which also included acting athletic director Joe Burke and university lawyer James Parke Jr., among others.
Roselle praised what he called Sutton’s “willingness to recognize that his resignation is a necessary step in the process of rebuilding our basketball program.”
Roselle added that the university athletics board was scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the basketball situation.
Asked if his leaving might soften any possible punishment meted out by the NCAA, Sutton said, “I would hope they would take it into consideration.”
Roselle added: “One hopes that it does, but one does not do it for that reason.”
Roselle said Parke and Burke were en route to NCAA headquarters at Mission, Kan., to meet with investigators.
Earlier Sunday, during an interview on CBS-TV, Sutton said he was resigning “for one reason--the love I have for the University of Kentucky, for the Kentucky basketball program and the people of the commonwealth.”
He cited recent “vicious” rumors about his status that he said had hurt and would continue to hurt a lot of people.
“I know how important basketball is to the people of the state, and I’ve decided for the good of the program, for the fans, for the players and most of all for my family, I should resign at this time.
“I’ve had 30 wonderful years of coaching. I’ve always tried to run the programs in the right way and I’ve done the same thing here. But I just feel like if this continues, it’s going to hurt more and more people and I don’t want the University of Kentucky basketball program to suffer anymore.”
Sutton said he had informed most of the players, who were on spring break this week, and his assistants of his decision. Casey and assistants Jimmy Dykes and James Dickey could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
Casey’s lawyer, Joe Bill Campbell of Bowling Green, Ky., said he and Casey would not have a comment on the resignation or Casey’s status until today.
Under the 53-year-old Sutton, Kentucky had a 90-40 record, including two Southeastern Conference titles, but slumped to 13-19 this season, the first losing season at the school in 62 years.