For a number of reasons, Randy Eaton seems a logical choice to be the caretaker for Maryland's athletic department while the university searches for Debbie Yow's replacement. That's the sense I get from talking with department insiders.
Eaton, the department's chief financial officer, was named the interim director of athletics today. His appointment was announced after university President C.D. Mote Jr. met with senior athletic department staff.
I think these factors surely weighed in Eaton's favor:
--He has direct knowledge of the workings of the department. He's handled financial issues. He's dealt with the media. He's been involved in the scheduling of Maryland's out-of-conference opponents for men's basketball and football.
--He is not regarded as a polarizing figure among coaches or others connected to the department.
--Being the top financial officer is especially important because this is is still budget season, when spending plans must be re-evaluated and sometimes reworked for the coming academic year. Yow, who begins as N.C. State's athletic director on July 10, submitted balanced budgets during each of her years at Maryland. That task grew particularly challenging given the state of the economy. Last year, Yow -- for the first time in her tenure in College Park — submitted a budget that was smaller than the previous year's. Teams had to make cuts to reach the bottom line. Eaton understands the budget -- and the sacrifices that can be required of teams -- to balance it. He says, by the way, that the football and men's basketball budgets are being restored to what they were before last year's cuts.
Eaton is obviously well versed in several of Maryland's top financial priorities-- stopping the slide in football season-ticket sales and selling out the premium football seating at Byrd Stadium.
I mentioned that Eaton is not viewed as a polarizing figure at Maryland. It is signficant that the men's basketball program considers him a straight shooter. "Everybody likes him," said a basketball program insider. "He's a solid guy." That is important, of course, given the history of tension between Yow and men's basketball coach Gary Williams.
Eaton said he hoped "to keep everything moving forward while the President’s Office conducts a national search." Eaton, 49, arrived at Maryland in 2003. I don't have any indication at this point that Eaton would be a candidate to hold the job in the long term. He says it's too soon to know. But that's a story for another day. The search committee is expected to be formed soon.