Maryland and Kevin Anderson officially parted ways last week, with Anderson’s resignation coming almost six months to the day from his announced “sabbatical.” A national search is expected to be announced in the coming weeks that should have no shortage of candidates.
What are people saying?
From The Baltimore Sun:
“It’s an outstanding academic institution with plenty of athletic tradition in a very fertile recruiting area, and the virtue of being in the Big Ten, they’ve got the TV money and resources to be able to compete at the highest level. Maryland will have a very, very deep pool,” said the athletic director at a West Coast school, who asked not be identified.
From The Washington Post:
“The athletic department is a mess. There’s not a culture of excellence. They need to bring in a sophisticated leader who can bring this place to the next level. There has been a leadership void there forever,” said one high-level booster, who spoke on a condition of anonymity.
Well, there are two. The first is the way Anderson was shown the door. Athletic directors around the country are aware of how poorly the “sabbatical” was handled by university president Wallace Loh, and that could make candidates wary of that relationship. Ever since the “sabbatical” was first announced, it was expected that Anderson would find a way to walk away at the end, but the start was cringeworthy.
The second is Damon Evans, the guy that’s been doing the job for the past six months and is viewed as a pretty serious candidate for the job. There will be at least a couple candidates scared off by the fact that he’s been there and has sort of an incumbent factor to him.
At the end of the day, though, Maryland is still a very high-profile job with a major apparel deal, and a national search done by a third party is sure to turn up a cavalcade of qualified candidates.
The case for Damon Evans
Evans joined the Maryland athletics staff in 2014 and acted as Anderson’s lieutenant until his departure. He’s only been with the Terps for just over three years, but in that time he’s risen to the ranks of Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for the Terps. He is also the administration’s football liaison and oversees all the contractual agreements and projects it takes on.
In addition to having been at the school for a few years, knowing the players and backers, he’s also had a six-month head start on impressing boosters and administrators. Since Anderson’s sabbatical began, he’s been steering the ship and handling all the day-to-day duties of an athletic director. Whether or not that’s going to be enough is yet to be seen.
Before College Park, Evans had previously spent six years as the University of Georgia’s AD. He served in the capacity for six years, from 2004-10, before his stint ended publicly and unceremoniously with a DUI charge. Anderson and Loh were the first administrators to take a chance on him a couple years later, and he’s said to have Loh’s backing, according to The Post. Prior to his resignation, Evans oversaw a period in Georgia history that included 12 national titles and 19 Southeastern Conference championships. He was also the inaugural chair of the NCAA’s Leadership council from 2008-10.
The way he flamed out at Georgia is going to be a hit to his candidacy. He has a lot of backers both inside the school and a fair amount among boosters and influential types. However, athletic director tends not to be a job where such public slip-ups are forgotten, especially when there’s no shortage of up-and-comers and mainstays alike.
From The Sun:
“I go back to what [Wisconsin athletic director] Barry Alvarez says, which is, ‘When you’re the head football coach, everybody loves you as long as you win, but when you’re AD, there isn’t anybody to beat.’ You’re as good as your last decision and some of those decisions haunt you for life,” said a Midwestern athletic director, who also asked for anonymity. “I’m not saying that’s an indictment on Damon, but I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head that got a second chance as an AD.”
Evans will still have a chance to prove he should be the one to further the Terps’ expansion into the Big Ten. Right now, he’s the most likely candidate to replace Anderson, though other names are bound to emerge from the search.
Are there any other candidates?
It’s still very early in the process and no official search has been announced, but a couple names have started to pop up related to the opening. In addition to Evans, former Kansas State and Tennessee AD John Currie and outgoing Hofstra AD Jeff Hathaway have been reportedly connected.
After a solid run at Kansas State, Currie flamed out in around nine months at Tennessee during its coaching search, and with a potential basketball one on the horizon, that should be taken into account. Meanwhile, Hathaway is a Maryland alum, meaning he could rally some support from the donors. Former Arkansas AD Jeff Long has also been mentioned, in terms of well-known figures in athletic director circles. The Sun also mentioned UCF AD Danny White, South Florida AD Mark Harlan and Rutgers deputy AD Sarah Baumgartner as other names to keep an eye on in the search.
At the end of the day, Loh, as well as influential donors (paging Kevin Plank), will have a tough decision to make regarding who leads the next era of Maryland athletics.