Potential AD Profile: Jeff Hathaway

One of the first names to pop up after Maryland's AD spot opened up was Jeff Hathaway, UConn's AD. The Washington Post mentioned him as a possibility, and Debbie Yow recommended him herself. With that, Hathaway became a potential frontrunner for the position.

But Hathaway - who doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry - is little more than a name to most people. In an effort to figure out more about Hathaway, I spent most of the afternoon researching, and I'm here to share my findings with you. I'll do the same with most other major candidates over the summer on an irregular basis. (There's no hurry).

In every discussion of the open AD spot that comes up, Hathaway's name does, too. His connection to Maryland, success at UConn, and Yow's own recommendation makes him a logical candidate. But he's not perfect. Let's jump into it.

(FYI: I knew next-to-nothing about Hathaway before coming into this. What is here is what I've found.)

Background: Hathaway is a Maryland alum and was actually a basketball team manager for Lefty Driesell. He worked in a variety of positions for the athletic department at UMD for a stretch of eight years, 1982-1990, before he followed Lew Perkins - Maryland's AD toward the end of that period - to UConn, where he became the Executive Associate Director of Athletics, which is a fancy way of saying "Perkins' #2." He served under Perkins at UConn for the next 11 years and helped to lay the groundwork for UConn's then-fledgling football team.

In 2001, shortly before UConn's football program made the jump to Division I-A - or FBS - he left Storrs to become the AD for Colorado State. It wasn't long, though - only two years, in 2003 - before he was back at UConn as the AD, taking over for Perkins, who left for Kansas. He's held that position ever since, and has reigned over a variety of successes.

UConn's football team, which has been in FBS for less than a decade, is strangely now a perenially bowl contender and outperformed Maryland last year. UConn's basketball teams - both men's and women's - really need no introduction or explanation of the success they have enjoyed in the past 7 years; there are four national championships and six Final Fours shared between the two under Hathaway's reign.

The sports were fairly solid when Hathaway became AD. Randy Edsall, Geno Auriema, and Jim Calhoun had already been installed when he took the job, and none have left their posts. He has, however, faced quite a bit of controversy, most of it stemming from the men's basketball side.

The obvious has to do with the myriad of accusations facing Calhoun, for everything from improper texting to dealings with an agent. Calhoun has been surrounded by these types of charges, along with doubts over his recruiting ethics and his students' grades, for longer than before Hathaway arrived, but they have intensified lately.

Meanwhile, Hathaway has had his own minor ethical dilemmas, most notably when he traded basketball tickets for cars. He's also, in the words of one UConn blogger, "draft[ed] some treatise on higher moral values" imploring UConn fans to stop being so obnoxious. Yeah, that'll go over well with Maryland's notoriously in-your-face student section.

None of that, though, kept Hathaway from winning the SportsBusinessJournal's AD of the Year award in 2008, and he's generally seen in a positive light, at least from those outside the program.

Football: The Huskies have had an extraordinary amount of success, considering how young the program is. They've only been in the FBS for eight years, but have four bowl appearances and a Big East Co-Championship under their belts. They've been to the postseason the past three years in a row and had at least eight wins all three years. Randy Edsall has been a solid coach and they've surprised everyone in how they've been able to bring in and win with talent.

As impressive as that is, though, it'd be unwise to give too much credit to Hathaway. Though he was at UConn when Edsall was hired, he wasn't the AD; that was still Perkins. It was Perkins, not Hathaway, that undertook and overviewed the entire process. And since being set in motion a decade ago, big decisions - like stadium expansions or coaching hires - have been few and far between.

That's not to say he's done nothing to help the team - any AD can screw up their team's success if they are incomptetent enough, and to this point he hasn't. The spending has been on par with most of the Big East and a few million more than what Maryland gives its football program annually, so there are no complaints there. Ultimately, to give him full credit for UConn's gridiron success would be misguided, but it does need to be noted that they've had success under him and he hasn't done anything to make them fail.

Basketball: Ah. This is probably what most of you guys care about the most, and its certainly what will be the most detailed, considering Hathaway's head coach's...checkered past.

I'm not going to recount all of the charges levied against UConn's basketball program, because they're too many to list. In addition to the formal investigation currently underway by the NCAA, Calhoun constantly faces questions regarding his recruiting tactics and academics, and with good reason. The man is Gary Williams mortal enemy, for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest is the dichotomy between the two's recruiitng styles.

Throughout everything, Hathaway has heavily supported Calhoun, some would argue to a fault. He (laughably) claimed that, while the University cares about compliance, Calhoun has shown a similar dedication. And considering that the administration never audited Calhoun's records, it seems that his own "dedication to compliance" could be exaggerated. Regardless, it's almost certain that the administration could've done more to limit Calhoun's actions.

The process has been a messy one. Hathaway and Calhoun supposedly fired two "scapegoat" assistants, which drew ire from the media. And while the ordeal was underway, UConn went 18-16, Calhoun took a leave of absence, UConn racked up legal fees, and Hathaway extended Calhoun's contract while giving him a raise. That was controversial to say the least, but language allowing the University to remove him or discipline him for NCAA is included. Or at least was included, and probably still is.

On one hand, he's shown quite a bit of support for his coach, and is undeniably in his corner. That's a bit different from Debbie Yow, and I'm sure Gary Williams would welcome the support. At the same time, the way Hathaway has allowed Calhoun to slide by, apparently didn't do his due dilligence, and has generally handled the situation should definitely raise red flags. Maryland's a controversial athletic department, and you have to ask yourself how that situation would look to, say, Eric Prisbell. Say what you want about Debbie Yow, but none of the "scandals" the Post blew out caught on nearly as much as they could've.

There's been controversy elsewhere with Calhoun, namely his players' academic pursuits, or lack thereof. Again, Hathaway defended his coach, and praised the benefits of athletic success:

Yet when I pestered the AD after Calhoun's second NCAA title in 2004, about whether he was embarrassed by the coach's graduation rate, Hathaway insisted the team's success more than made up for it.

"Enrollment, fund-raising, the visibility of the athletic program ... we have 3,200 slots, and 20,000 applications," Hathaway said then. "I won't say athletics are driving our admissions, but we can be more selective."

Actually, I've always agreed with this line of thinking, in a very general sense, but that's not exactly how the AD should be responding to that sort of question. For what its worth, though, all UConn teams did meet APR this year.

In the meantime, yes, UConn has found plenty of basketball success under Hathaway, including a national championship. But like football, he didn't make a hire...or, actually, any major decisions. It appears the only decision he did make was to let Calhoun run rampant and give him money. Don't let that phrasing turn you off, though: that would probably work wonders for a by-the-book guy like Gary, and a lot of times what's needed is to let the coach do his job. No, he didn't turn a program around or anything, but he knows when to be hands-off.

Non-Revenues: This title might be misleading, because women's basketball is included. And Connecticut, along with Tennessee and maybe a few others, is one of the few places in the country where women's basketball could be a revenue sport. If you've watched ESPN, you know of Geno Auriema's gals' dominance on the court.

Hathaway has supported the program, even if Auriema wasn't his hire. Like the other successes, its undetermined how much success can really be given to him, but I'm inclined to praise him for supporting a "non-rev" like women's basketball financially and seeing the benefits. Of course, it's still Auriema's success more than anyone else's (except the players).

Outside of that, UConn is a good, not great, non-revenue program. They came in 62nd in the Director's Cup, which is above-average but still lower than Maryland's 28th place finish. The Huskie's soccer and field hockey teams are pretty good, though not as good as Maryland's, and their track & field teams are generally a little better. Ultimately, I don't think it'd be fair to expect the same high level of non-rev success enjoyed under Yow, who made non-revs a priority, from a majority of the people Maryland will look at, and that includes Hathaway.

Pros:

  • He's got Gary's back. No, Debbie Yow didn't have Gary Williams' back all that much. But if Hathaway can find it in himself to support Jim Calhoun, he can certainly support Gary Williams when he tries to slip in the occasional VT transfer.
  • Tied to the program. Everyone always talks about how great it is to have coaches that are alumni. One would assume that it'd be just as awesome to have an alumnus AD, someone that cares about the University and its athletics thanks to their first-hand experiences with it. Hathaway, a UMD graduate, would fit that bill.
  • He's had success. A lot of the talk in this profile has been about the way the troubles he had, because quite honestly that's the majority of what's out there on him. But that's selling his time at UConn short, to an extent. UConn football, men's basketball, and women's basketball all saw major success in his time as AD, and that shouldn't be overlooked. Even if he wasn't the catalyst for their success, he deserves some measure of credit for overseeing them.
  • He's experienced. Even if you're not in love with what he's done at UConn, he's been around the block enough to make anyone feel pretty good about it. He was at Maryland for a long spell and at UConn for a longer one, and was the AD at Colorado State. Most of Maryland's other candidates haven't even been a full-time AD yet. They'll probably be a bigger gamble than Hathaway.

Cons:

  • Scandalous. Seriously, I know this might be welcomed at Maryland after Yow's tenure, but his support of Calhoun (from my admittedly biased perspective) borders on stupidity. No coach is bigger than the entire department, and Calhoun threatens to damage it. That's not even mentioning the failure of the department to audit Calhoun's camps, which is being faithful to a fault when you have a guy like Calhoun. Just how much did Hathaway know, etc.? That shouldn't be a problem with Gary, but the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way.
  • He's never made a major hire. And within about five years at Maryland, he'll be making two. Ralph has two years left max, and Franklin will probably be bought out unless he lands Cyrus Kouandjio, which is doubtful. And Gary probably has another half-decade left in the tank before he calls it quits. Do you want your new AD - who has never made a major hire - to be making two in a relatively short timespan?
  • Moralizing? This is nitpicky, but do you love Rock and Roll Pt. II? Were you upset when the band stopped playing it? Do you love that Lee Melchionni could be brought to tears by things Maryland fans say? Some of you don't, assuredly, but some of you do. And Hathaway's "Huskie Honor" code might not be all too well accepted by those of you that do.
  • UConn fans don't exactly love him. If you could rehire Debbie Yow, would you? You probably wouldn't. Fans' opinions are generally a good barometer for a person's success. And UConn fans, or at least one UConn fan, doesn't seem enthralled with Hathaway. See below:

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Hathaway, despite the awards that he's won. Perhaps I'm selling him short - UConn has had significant success during his tenure - but I'm in the camp that says he was fortunate to have inherited a situation where the coaches of the three major sports - Football and Men's and Women's basketball - were already in place. He has not had to conduct a national coaching search to replace a coach in one these three sports, which will be a real challenge when it happens. And with Jim Calhoun's retirement not that many years in the future, I'm not convinced that Hathaway is taking, or allowing, the proper steps to happen now.

Perhaps I'm only hearing well-crafted stories from his antagonists, but it also seems that major decisions have been delayed because of Hathaway's travel schedule. I kept hearing that in regards to Calhoun's contract, and now I'm hearing it in regards to the delays in announcing the hiring of the new Assistant Coach and Director of Basketball Operations. With Calhoun's contract, it's possible that this was a smokescreen to hold off as long as possible while waiting for the NCAA Notice of Allegations - but the delay in signing a new contract - rumored to be just a formality for approximately 6 months - seems to have hurt recruiting efforts.

I'm not going to be too upset if the rumor turns out to be true - UConn will find a new AD and move on.

 

There it is. You tell us: would you be happy with a Hathaway hire as AD? To me, it comes down to the options available (Joe Castiglione, please) but quite frankly I might be just as happy to roll the dice on an unproven but promising #2 AD. The scandals just scare me a bit too much. Stupid reason, maybe, but it is what it is.

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