There are some premier candidates for Maryland's AD job, candidates that have big names and big resumes. The last two guys we did for this - Joe Castiglione and Jeff Hathaway - both won AD of the Year Awards within the past three years.
Then there are some darkhorses, with less experience but perhaps more energy and ceilings that are perhaps just as high. With the biggest names out of the way, it's time to turn to some of those darkhorse candidates.
Randy Eaton, Maryland interim AD
Out of all the candidates Maryland's considering, Randy Eaton may be the safest bet of all. Maryland knows him, he knows Maryland, and his resume is just as good as most of the other candidates.
Eaton, 49, has been a part of Maryland's athletic department since 2003, when he joined the department as associate AD for business. Since then, he's been an integral part of the department on the numbers side, serving as the program's CFO and overseeing most of its economic developments.
Once Debbie Yow headed out for N.C. State, Eaton was the most sensible candidate to become the interim AD, and that's exactly what happened. It's not his first rodeo at this thing, for one thing; he was interim AD several years before at East Tennessee State. For another, he's a straightforward guy that's well-liked among the coaches.
At first, it was uncertain whether or not he'd be an actual candidate. But with other people not currently serving as an AD somewhere supposedly being considered, why not consider Eaton, too? That's apparently what happened.
Eaton certainly has his positives. According to the Washington Post, he's "well-regarded throughout the department for a straightforward-yet-personable approach" and "has strong relationships with personnel in both the men's basketball and football programs." Jeff Barker said that "he is not regarded as a polarizing figure." And if this Washington Post feature is any indication, then he's good with the media and knows how to sell himself and his position.
And, of course, Maryland has one of the more unique positions around. They have to deal with an unusual amount of media scrutiny, being wedged in-between two very sizable cities. There's the issues still around from Bob Wade and Len Bias, the increased academic standards, and a tighter-than-normal budget. Eaton, who's been in the program for a solid seven years now, knows these problems well, and is well-equipped to deal with them.
So far, he's done pretty well. He's closing a deal to play against Texas, and he helped increase the budgets of Maryland's two biggest sports. He hasn't had to face any crises yet, but so far so good.
Unfortunately, Eaton does have a rather sizable negative: even if he isn't Debbie Yow himself, he doesn't present any sort of major change. The athletic department under Eaton probably isn't going to try any new solutions to their problems, because he's been there so long and has pre-formed ideas on how to run it. As a commenter said, Eaton's "the status quo." It's unlikely that he'd radically change the department, itss goals, or its methods.
Part of that's assumption, but it's a very reasonable one. Ultimately, Eaton presents a safer, if less dynamic, option than most of other candidates.
Neal Eskin, UConn executive associate AD
Eskin's always struck me as a strange, perhaps secondary candidate than most of the other administrators normally discussed.
Jeff Hathaway is the UConn administrator that gets all the talk, and with good reason; he's a big name with a Maryland degree. But if he ends up being too dirty or values his NCAA committee chair too much, then another UConn administrator may get considered as well: Eskin, Hathaway's #2 man.
Eskin's biggest draws for Maryland probably stem from his connections to the University. He, like Hathaway and Joe Castiglione, graduated from UMD. He, like Hathaway, also worked in the athletic department in his early days, starting in the ticket department before ultimately moving to marketing director. He ended up following Perkins to UConn, then following Hathaway to Colorado State, and ultimately following Hathaway back to UConn again, ending up as Hathaway's #2 man.
Finding information on Eskin is difficult; there isn't a lot of information on him out there. But he did grow mostly in marketing, and it appears that remains his strength. When Hathaway became AD at Colorado State and he hired Eskin, he had this to say:
"What set [Eskin] apart was his past experience and his knowledge of coming into a department and looking at external relations, sifting through that department and turning it into a fine-tuned operation," Hathaway said. "He's a tremendous communicator, both within the department and on the outside, and in that world you just can't communicate enough."
General, PR-ish statements, for sure. But I guess its better than nothing. If this is right, Eskin sounds like a media guy who'll be a good quote and interview.
Unfortunately for us, it's tough to find his actual accomplishments; his name rarely appears in articles. But it's easy to assume that he played a secondary role in the development and maintaining the extreme success of UConn's football and basketball programs.
The upside is that he knows, to some extent, the problems the UMD athletic department faces. The bad side is that so little is visibly known about him that we're kind of left in the dark about what he can do. Ultimately, Eskin's probably a fringe candidate. He's been mentioned on more than one occasion as a replacement possibility, but he makes a lot less sense than his superior, Hathaway, Castiglione, or even simply retaining Eaton.
Dan Gavitt, Big East Associate Commissioner for Men's Basketball
Out of all the names that've been discussed, Gavitt's always been a bit of a head-scratcher for me.
Of course, simply being mentioned as a potential candidate - for a job which there will likely be north of two dozen "candidates" - doesn't really mean a lot. There are a lot of names that will pop up, and just being mentioned doesn't guarantee, or at this point even insinuate, anything.
Still, Gavitt's one of more intriguing and interesting names out there, partially because he's one of the few that's "different." And it's not all that uncommon that big-time AD spots are filled by "different" candidates - for example, West Virginia just filled their vacant AD spot with Oliver Luck, who played football for the 'Neers before studying law, becoming GM of the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe, becoming CEO of the Houston Sports Authority, and eventually becoming GM of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer.
(Side note: that sounds like a Len Elmore, Tom McMillen, or maybe even Boomer Esaison type of guy. Sadly, the first is on the search committee, the second's got better things to do, and the third isn't exactly qualified.)
Anyway: like Eskin, the thing Gavitt's got most going for him is connections. But whereas for Eskin it's his connections to the university, for Gavitt it's the connections to Gary Williams. It just so happens that Gavitt is the son of David Gavitt, also known as the founder of the Big East. And David Gavitt just happens to be really good friends with Gary Williams.
For one example, in Sweet Redemption, a biography of Gary, it's noted that the elder Gavitt invited Gary on a golf trip in Great Britain, along with Jim Boehim and P.J. Carlesimo. Gavitt was described as an "old friend" of Williams. We've already seen what a change in scenery in the AD's office can do for Gary; whether that's good or bad is another matter, but it is what it is. I can't imagine working for a friend would hurt. At the very least he'd know the program would have his back.
I don't want to be misleading, though; Gavitt has his own chops. Unlike the two candidates above, Gavitt's been an AD, albeit at a Division II school - Bryant University. He was the Bulldogs' AD for six years, and they enjoyed plenty of success in his tenure. They won two Presidents' Cup trophies (essentially the Directors' Cup for their conference) and finished in the top 25 in the D-II Directors' Cup in 2007-08. Bryant was also third among all D-II schools in graduation rate during his tenure.
Not a bad little achievements list, even if it pales in comparison to a certain Mr. Castiglione. But Gavitt has more on his resume, and it's tough to imagine finding any candidate with more basketball chops. For the past five years, he's been overseeing the day-to-day and big picture operations of either the best or second-best basketball conference. How much that translates over to a single school is questionable, but he has the raw experience and knowledge that few others have. Plus, he lacks the potential "dirty" vibe of a guy like Hathaway or Castiglione, who have both been involved in large-size scandals in their time. Gavitt's clean as a whistle, with a lot of experience in Maryland's biggest sport.
That said, it would be impossible to look at the hiring of Gavitt without two stigmas: first, that his father's relationship with Gary Williams helped get him the job, and second, that it was made from a basketball-first perspective. Neither of these should happen. Gary isn't bigger than Maryland basketball, let alone Maryland's 26 other teams. And lord knows that football needs to factor into the equation in a huge way, let alone all the non-revenues that have had so much success at Maryland in the past.
Those two conditions may not be entirely true. If he's the guy for the job, go for it. But until he proves himself, those will be hanging around him.
This will be the last Potential AD Profiles for a while. We've simply run out of known candidates.