Maryland should have a new full-time athletic director soon. Patrick Kraft, currently holding the same position at Temple, is reportedly in the running. According to The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty, he might even be the favorite, though a Temple source told The Philadelphia Inquirer “there is a long way to go in the process.”
Kraft is up against interim Maryland AD Damon Evans and former Tennessee AD John Currie for the job, according to Dougherty and The Baltimore Sun’s Don Markus. So let’s explore why Maryland wants him.
The criteria for an athletic director hire isn’t always straightforward or easy to discern from an outside perspective. But here are a few things we know an AD must be good at: raising money, hiring good coaches and generally running a “clean” program (we’ll define that later). Success in those areas should result in athletic programs that win games, attract fans and elevate the profile of the school.
Kraft came to Temple in 2013 as a deputy athletic director and assumed the full-time AD job in 2015. He has a Big Ten background, having played football at Indiana and obtaining a bachelors, masters and doctorate from the university. He’s only been an athletic director for three years, though, which means some parts of his performance at Temple are hard to evaluate.
Patrick Kraft has made two revenue-sport coaching hires. Time will tell how they turn out.
The easiest way to evaluate an athletic director is on the coaching hires they make in the sports that make the most money: football and men’s basketball. Unfortunately, Kraft doesn’t have much data for us to use here.
Kraft hired Geoff Collins to replace Matt Rhule after Rhule left for Baylor following the 2016 season. The Owls went 7-6 Collins’ debut season and finished 78th in S&P+. That’s a hire we won’t be able to evaluate for a while. Temple’s not a college football power, and any new coach there should be afforded some time to find his footing. Bill Connelly gave Temple a B+ for the hire at the time.
In basketball, Kraft inherited head coach Fran Dunphy, and the two parties agreed the coach will step aside after next season to give way to assistant Aaron McKie. McKie hasn’t held a college head coaching job before, but has spent over a decade as an assistant, including time with the 76ers. It’s hard to evaluate that move until McKie coaches a game, but the Temple community didn’t seem thrilled.
Maryland’s used to success in men’s soccer, women’s and men’s lacrosse and field hockey, so the ideal athletic director should be able to produce successful non-revenue teams too. Kraft’s tenure is hard to evaluate in this area for the same reasons as the one above. A quick dive into Temple’s non-revenue sport records don’t reveal any noticeable dips or rises in success in his three-year tenure tenure.
How did he do at raising money?
Pretty well, it seems. Athletics donations increased in 2015, the year Kraft assumed the AD job. This is from a school-issued report:
He also inked Temple a 10-year, $30 million agreement with Under Armour, which is hard to ignore now that he’s in the mix for UA’s flagship school. SportsBusinessJournal named him to its “40 under 40” list in 2016:
Kraft, who took the AD reins last May, gets high marks for increasing fan engagement. Accordingly, athletics donations are up. There’s also an on-campus building boom, including a complex to house lacrosse, track and field, field hockey, and soccer. Next up are formative plans for a 35,000-seat on-campus football stadium. The Owls now play football at the other end of Broad Street, at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We’re the 26th-largest university in the country,” Kraft said. “Now we’re really starting to change the culture and show people how good this place is and can be.”
Maryland was famously in severe need of an influx of cash when it left the ACC for the Big Ten. The conference’s TV deal gives the Terps an easier time balancing the budget, but raising more dollars is another way Maryland will need to improve to contend long-term in the Big Ten—especially when the Terps still pull in less money than Illinois. (That’ll change when Maryland finally gets a full share of Big Ten revenue in 2020-21, but still.)
Was his program on the up-and-up, per NCAA standards?
Temple hasn’t been in the news for any of the wrong reasons, something not every candidate for Maryland’s athletic director job can say. No sexual assault scandals, NCAA violations, student riots during coaching searches or seriously bad press. Props for hiring a mental health professional dedicated solely to student-athlete needs, too. And Temple athletes have graduated at a high rate during his tenure. He checks all the boxes here.
The biggest question mark on Kraft’s resume is experience.
Kraft checks a lot of boxes, but he’s only been an athletic director for three years at a school that isn’t in the Power 5 (even if the AAC is darn close to it). Maryland’s other candidates had longer tenures at more prominent schools, even if their most recent AD positions ended badly. Lack of experience won’t rule Kraft out, but it’ll be something to consider.