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Robert Shelton announced Monday that he is resigning after five years as president of the University of Arizona.

Effective Aug. 1, he will become the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, which is troubled by allegations of illegal campaign contributions and extravagant spending.

Shelton will remain UA president until that date. An interim president will soon be named by an Arizona Board of Regents committee, which also will organize a committee to hire the 20th UA president.

Shelton is expected to address the media today at the Fiesta Bowl offices.

In a statement released by the Fiesta Bowl, Shelton expressed excitement about his new job and called the Fiesta Bowl "an Arizona treasure."

In a statement released by the UA, Shelton said: "This was probably the most difficult decision I've ever had to make.

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

Shelton, 62, has headed the university during a time of increasing enrollments and state budget cuts that brought on job cuts, tuition increases and organizational changes at the UA. He also oversaw the launch of the medical school's branch in downtown Phoenix.

Gov. Jan Brewer praised Shelton's leadership and said he has been "a steady hand on the wheel during difficult economic and budgetary times."

Shelton also pushed the UA's commitment to give poor and minority students access to higher education by starting the Arizona Assurance financial-aid program.

And he had a reputation for being friendly with students. He helped them move into dorms, was a friend to veterans starting anew in college life, and often chose a random group of students to eat lunch with, sometimes without their knowing they were chatting with the university president.

"He was always respectful to students, always fair and aware of our priorities," student President James Allen said. He said he hopes future leaders can maintain that culture.

Last school year, the UA had about 38,000 students.

In his statement Monday, Shelton also said this is "a good time to bring a fresh perspective to the leadership of the university."

In a memo to employees, Shelton said, "I leave UA proud of what it stands for and what it means to Arizona's future."

Shelton was hired in 2006. In 2009, he won a raise and a contract extension through June 2012. He was paid $470,000 a year plus other benefits.

He will earn a base salary of $455,000 a year plus incentives in his four-year contract at the Fiesta Bowl. He replaces John Junker, whose salary was $592,000 before he was fired in March.

In his new job, Shelton will oversee the Fiesta Bowl organization and its Festival of College Football, which includes the annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Insight Bowl and more than 40 statewide events. The Fiesta Bowl draws more than 67,000 fans.

Shelton has been closely involved with college football as a member of the Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Committee.

Fiesta Bowl Chairman Duane Woods called Shelton the ideal leader for the group.

"We are so fortunate that someone of Dr. Shelton's caliber has chosen to lead our organization," Woods said in a news release.

"Shelton's impeccable record of integrity and his vast knowledge of collegiate academics and athletics are perfectly suited to restore trust and credibility with our volunteers, staff, community and key partners."

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 807-8012.