Nearly a month after Maryland announced athletic director Kevin Anderson’s departure and nearly two weeks after university president Wallace D. Loh introduced a search committee and outside search firm to help find Anderson’s replacement, unrest among boosters and other alumni is growing.
Tom McMillen, whose nearly 50-year association with the school began as a coveted basketball recruit and includes a recent stretch on the Board of Regents, said Tuesday that “I’m constantly getting queries inside and out of Maryland, asking, ‘What’s going on?’ I get a lot of texts from ADs [interested in the position], a lot of calls from fans. There’s just a lot of restlessness out there.”
Two longtime boosters are unhappy about how Maryland handled Anderson’s departure and with the tenor of the search. One of them, Barry DesRoches, said his views are representative of a small but loyal group that has donated “eight figures” to support athletics in recent years.
After getting input from more than a dozen boosters, DesRoches sent a 14-page letter Tuesday to the school’s regents, as well as Loh and Robert Caret, chancellor of the University System of Maryland. In it, he expressed his concerns that the search will end with acting athletic director Damon Evans being hired on a permanent basis.
“I’m very frustrated,” said DesRoches, a 1980 Maryland graduate who has served on a variety of campus boards, including the Terrapin Club, which raises money for scholarships. “It’s athletics, but this really hugely impacts the school.
”Athletics is the glue — the strongest piece of glue — that binds alumni to the school. It makes the state as a whole supportive of the school. It’s got potential to be phenomenal here, but it’s going to take the right type of leadership to make that happen.”
DesRoches’ frustrations stem from the fact that the eight-person committee appears to be hand-picked by Loh for the express purpose of promoting Evans, who took over many of Anderson’s day-to-day duties when the former athletic director began a six-month sabbatical in October.
“I did not see the process as it was evolving as being set up to get us a really highly qualified candidate,” DesRoches said in a telephone interview Monday. “In fact, it looks a little stacked toward the guy who’s in there in the acting capacity.”
DesRoches had misgivings when he first heard who was on the committee, including senior associate athletic director Cheryl Harrison, who reports directly to Evans, as well as longtime field hockey coach Missy Meharg and track coach Andrew Valmon, who have been supportive of Evans. In his letter, DesRoches wrote of Harrison, “Clearly this is a conflict of interest. Given her position, she should not be on this committee. Immediate removal is the appropriate course of action.”
Longtime school donor Steve Baldwin, a 1983 Maryland graduate, is also looking at the university underselling itself in its search for Anderson’s successor.
In a much shorter letter last week to Loh, Baldwin outlined what he believes to be the athletic department’s untapped potential to become as much a power in football and men’s basketball as the Terps have been in soccer, field hockey, and men’s and women’s lacrosse.
“When I look at the place, I feel like we really don’t understand where we are. We’ve been irrelevant in our revenue sports for a decade,” said Baldwin, who has been among the school’s top 20 athletic donors for nearly two decades. “We have to completely change the way we do business. We have to change our objectives by raising those [expectations] much higher. It isn’t good enough to make the [NCAA] tournament or make a bowl game. Be bold.”
Anderson, who had been the school’s athletic director since 2010, officially left Maryland on April 13, though most with knowledge of the situation said he knew from the start of what was called a “professional development sabbatical” that he would not be back.
DesRoches said he is “mystified” at why Maryland didn’t form a search committee in October — or at least start its search — knowing Anderson was not going to return after agreeing within a month or so to a buyout of the remaining 18 to 21 months of his contract.
“It seems like we spent six months doing nothing,” DesRoches said. “We just sat there floundering. This is another thing that leads me to believe there was a preselection.”
In his letter Tuesday, DesRoches proposed naming an outside interim athletic director similar to the position Anderson just assumed at Cal-Northridge, one that would not lead to a permanent hire.
Baldwin and others said Loh should make a run at longtime Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, a Maryland graduate who is widely considered among the best in the business. The one sticking point is that Castiglione’s reported salary of $1.3 million is more than twice the reported $580,000 Anderson was making.
Castiglione has not returned telephone messages from The Baltimore Sun regarding the Maryland search process.
McMillen said he didn’t think the Board of Regents, which meets for the last time during the academic year on May 15, will get involved in the athletic director search. He also believes Maryland should look for a younger, cheaper rising star in athletic administration, as Castiglione once was.
“Joe Castiglione was not Joe Castiglione when he left Missouri to go to Oklahoma. He built that over 20 years,” McMillen said Tuesday. “The Joe Castigliones of the world are not coming to Maryland. Maryland is a tough situation. It’s going to be a challenge.”
McMillen said Maryland must, first and foremost, find a fundraiser.
“You really need to find someone who can raise money, project the brand and have a very good deputy that can run the railroad,” McMillen said. “A person has to be out there closing the fiscal gaps. It’s a big problem area.”
Gene DeFilippo, the former athletic director at Villanova and Boston College, is heading the search process as managing director for Turnkey Sports and Entertainment. DeFilippo said it is the 11th athletic director search run by the New Jersey-based firm, including ones for several Big Ten schools.
In a statement to The Sun on Tuesday, DeFilippo said: “Turnkey was hired by Maryland to assist with a national search and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We are well-equipped to help choose a leader who will chart the path forward in Maryland Athletics."
Katie Lawson, the chief communications officer for Maryland, said Tuesday that because the search process is “confidential," there would be no comment from the committee or Loh regarding the letter or the makeup of the search committee.
DesRoches wrote in his letter that he believes the 48-year-old Evans has too much “baggage” stemming from his firing as athletic director at Georgia in 2010 after six years at his alma mater. The firing came only days after Evans was charged with driving under the influence in Atlanta.
After working outside college athletics for several years, Evans was brought in by Anderson in 2014 as the department’s senior associate athletics director and chief financial officer.
In an interview in his office in December, Evans declined to discuss his role in Anderson’s departure or any subsequent moves he was involved in making as the acting athletic director.
“You’re going to have people like what you’re doing, the decisions that you make. You’re going to have people who are going to like you personally and you’re going to have that other group, they’re not going to like what you’re doing, they’re not going like you personally, they don’t think you’re the right individual,” he said. “You’re not going to make everyone happy. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to try.
“Everything I do since I’ve been in the business is to try to do what’s in the best interest of the institution.”