(AP) - Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson announced Monday he is retiring next year, a day after head football coach Larry Porter was fired.
Fans lost interest in the struggling Tigers football team, with only about 2,500 people attending the home finale against Marshall on Nov. 17.
"It's been a great ride," the 70-year-old Johnson said at a press conference, adding he had been talking with his wife about retirement.
The basketball team, however, had some strong seasons during Johnson's tenure, winning several conference titles and losing to Kansas in the 2008 NCAA championship game under coach John Calipari. The team's 38 wins in the 2007-2008 season were later ordered vacated due to NCAA violations.
Memphis President Shirley Raines says a search firm will be hired and a search committee formed to find a new football coach and athletic director. Johnson said he would retire around June, near the end of the fiscal year.
Johnson announced his departure as the university tries to maneuver its way out of Conference USA. Johnson has said Memphis would like to be in the Southeastern Conference, a statement that drew scoffs and criticism.
Johnson joined the program in February 1996, after leading the athletic departments at Temple, Miami (Ohio), and Eastern Illinois.
Since then, the Tigers have won 17 C-USA titles in men's basketball, men's soccer, women's soccer, women's golf and men's track. Memphis also played in five bowl games and 14 post-season men's basketball tournaments under his watch.
Johnson has been praised for hiring men's basketball coach John Pastner, who is in his third season and has a 51-22 combined record.
Johnson also oversaw two capital campaigns that raised more than $21 million for athletic department projects. In June, Johnson announced another capital campaign to raise $10 million for a 74,000-square foot indoor practice facility and other improvements for the football program.