A little more than 13 months after coming to Jonesboro, Tom Bowen is out as Arkansas State University's athletic director.
Bowen announced his immediate resignation in a news release Thursday morning, citing health reasons. It's the second major departure in recent weeks at ASU with Chancellor Kelly Damphousse set to take the same position at Texas State this summer.
According to Bowen's separation agreement with the school -- which the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request -- Bowen is currently on "a leave of absence for health-related reasons until his employment terminates on May 15, 2022."
Bowen did not respond to interview requests with the Democrat-Gazette on Thursday.
"This morning I met with our coaches and senior administrators to let them know that due to health issues that require my immediate attention, I needed to step away from my role as [Vice Chancellor] for Intercollegiate Athletics," Bowen wrote, noting that he intends on remaining in Jonesboro. "This decision wasn't easy, but one that is in the best interests for me personally and my family."
Multiple sources within ASU's athletic department signaled that they had no indication of a possible departure until they learned Wednesday night of Bowen's Thursday morning meeting.
But ASU System President Chuck Welch said he and Bowen had discussed a potential leave of absence for "several days" prior to the announcement.
"The top priority [is] him just reducing his stress level and dealing with the health issues he's facing," Welch told the Democrat-Gazette. "He had some sick leave he was going to take, and in looking at it, [he] said, 'I just think it's in the best interest to go ahead and resign ultimately.' "
Bowen, 60, was hired March 10, 2021, after serving as athletic director at Memphis from 2012-19. Prior to that, he had held the same role at San Jose State, and the Denver native had previously worked in athletic departments at Saint Mary's College and the University of California at Berkeley.
"Tom Bowen ... helped us navigate through the changing landscape of intercollege athletics -- in particular, issues related to name, image and likeness, the transfer portal, and conference realignment," Damphousse said in the same statement. "I learned a lot from Tom, and will always be grateful to him for the time and energy he put into our athletics program."
Amy Holt, ASU's executive senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, will serve as athletic director in the interim while Welch leads the search for Bowen's replacement. Holt, who has been with the Red Wolves since July 2013, becomes the first female athletic director -- either full-time or acting -- at Arkansas State.
Welch noted that under normal circumstances, the school's chancellor would be responsible for leading the athletic director search given that the AD reports directly to them.
Since Damphousse will be leaving ASU at the end of June, however, Welch will head this search himself. He told the Democrat-Gazette that he is in the process of determining whether the university will again utilize a search firm -- TurnkeyZRG assisted in Bowen's hiring last year -- and if so, what the firm's scope will be.
Welch also said the process will start immediately rather than waiting until ASU decides on its next chancellor, adding "we can be a little bit more nimble on an athletic [director] search."
"With all the rapid changes that are happening in athletics right now, we just really felt like we needed to move more quickly than that," Welch said of potentially stretching the search into the late summer and fall. "You never want to have to go through another [athletic director] search that quickly, but at the same time, it's not like we're having to look at the exact same things again."