Why is it that when Debbie Yow leaves and when Maryland hires her replacement, I'm away from the house both times? Earlier today while I was suffering through the UL-UK game in Louisville (I head home tomorrow), both the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post reported that Maryland has hired Kevin Anderson, who served the same position at Army, as their new AD.
The reactions since then have been mighty negative. The name came out of nowhere, and compared to Jeff Hathaway - UConn's AD, and another finalist - his experience and "name" pales in comparison. Even my first reaction was on the negative side.
But the more I dive into the hire, the better it seems. He's not Hathaway and certainly not Joe Castiglione, but he has his own set of positives. Who knows? He might even end up being just what Maryland needs.
First, a little background: he was most recently Army's AD, and has served in secondary positions in major BCS programs elsewhere. His selection is a surprise - he was never publicly mentioned as a candidate before this. He was chose as AD over Hathaway and Buffalo's Wards Manuel.
Timetable-wise, it's certainly quicker than anyone expected. Originally, the prevalent theory was that Maryland would get a new AD by late September or early October, and any reason as to why it was so accelerated is speculation. Perhaps Maryland found their guy and didn't see a reason to wait. Perhaps they felt they needed to act to keep their best options available. Perhaps, and what seems most likely to me, they wanted to make a decision before the season started to allow him maximum time to get acquainted with what should be the most profitable program.
As an AD choice, Anderson is more interesting than anything else. On the surface, being AD at Army is different than being an AD at any other school. The coaching decisions aren't as "big" and the successes a service academy can have are much smaller. Obviously, Army football and basketball hasn't exactly been successful the past few years. It's also the only AD job he's held.
That may not be a huge deal; it's not like he doesn't have the traditional experience. He was also the #2 man (executive associate athletic director) at Oregon State, and was at the program when the Beavers hired Mike Riley. That worked out pretty well; OSU has been extremely competitive since Riley was hired, and figures to challenge Oregon for the Pac-10 crown this year. Before that, he was at a few other west-coast programs (Cal, Stanford) too.
If Hathaway really was a finalist, then Jeff Barker might be right: they wanted a "cleaner" image. As the AD at a service academy, there's zero tolerance for dirty recruiting tactics or academic failure. I doubt he'll accept either in his new job. You just don't get any cleaner than a service academy AD.
(In fact, it seems like Maryland's been trying to clean up their image ever since Len Bias. That was big for Debbie Yow, and it's been big for the administration, all the way up to William Kirwan, the chancellor. It's not really what most fans look for in their ADs, especially when the other main option is a proven winner at another BCS school.)
It doesn't mean that he'll be a failure. The most important things with the AD position are to support the coaches, remain in NCAA compliance, and keep the books balanced. He's been fairly proven in the last aspect, turning a million dollar deficit into a $2.73 mil surplus in five years.
What he's done off the field is better than the on-field results. He helped get a new football practice facility, which is always good (and Maryland could use a boost, too) and was a big part in getting a contract to play in the new Yankee Stadium the next several years. (Maryland's recently done similar deals with FedEx Field and Notre Dame).
He's also shown some good hiring ability, despite the average results. Rich Ellerson took over the woe-begone football program last year, and turned out the best season since at least 2001 (ESPN doesn't have stats for any earlier seasons). The same goes for Zach Spiker, a 32-year old Cornell assistant, who was hired as the basketball coach last year. The NY Times raved about him and they ended up with a 14-15 year, which is the best record of the past decade for the Black Knights.
Both hires were unconventional - Ellerson made the jump from a D-II school, and Spiker was barely out of his 20s - and both have worked. That's encouraging, especially when you consider that he may need to make hires in both sports in his tenure here.
The final question - whether or not he can give all the coaches the attention they need - is unanswered, and will remain unanswered until he gets some experience. But Gary Williams called him a "coach's AD", so at least there's that.
There's been a lot of negativity surrounding the hire. Rightfully so: I gave you the highlights, and his resume does nothing to a) rally the fanbase to excitement, b) provide a "name" hire to excite the media, or c) provide a big presence that's known to be able to whip a messy department into shape. On the face, he's done nothing to prove that he can do anything of those things.
Like I said, he's not Jeff Hathaway and he's definitely not Joe Castiglione. This is his first shot in the big leagues, and there's a low floor for his performance. But ultimately, I like the majority of what I see: success in hiring in both sports, a solid job of fundraising, renovated some of the facilities, and has shown an ability to do well in negotiating media/exposure deals.
Is he a home-run hire? Certainly not. But not even Hathaway, with his lack of experience making hires and compliance black eye, was a home-run hire. At the very least, Anderson seems to have the base to succeed. I'll hold off making any judgment for awhile, but first reaction: it definitely could've been worse, and the ceiling is just as high is the floor is low.