COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland president William E. Kirwan said yesterday that he is aware that athletic director Andy Geiger has interviewed for the same job at Ohio State, and will do what he can to keep Geiger.
What Kirwan won't do is hold Geiger to his contract should he decide to leave. Geiger, 53, is in the fourth year of the five-year contract he signed when he came to Maryland from Stanford in September 1990. The contract calls for Geiger to earn a base salary of $125,000 a year, with a yearly $15,000 annuity and the use of two automobiles.
"I know in some instances, some schools have taken a very hard line [to not let employees out of existing contracts]," said Kirwan, who hired Geiger after former athletic director Lew Perkins left for the same position at Connecticut. "I understand why they would do that. My inclination is to let people pursue opportunities that arise."
Kirwan said Ohio State president Gordon Gee called him seeking permission to speak with Geiger, and Kirwan talked with Geiger after he returned from an interview last week in Columbus.
"He and I have an extremely open relationship," said Kirwan. "I'm not surprised whenever his name comes up for jobs. . . . Quite frankly, I don't know if there's a better athletic director in the United States.
"That doesn't mean he's going to leave or that we are not going to do everything in our power to keep him. . . . I'm not resigned to the fact that he's leaving even if they offer him the job."
Geiger, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, said Thursday that he was interested enough in the job to talk with Ohio State officials, but wasn't sure whether he would be called back for a second interview.
David Williams, vice president for student affairs at Ohio State, confirmed yesterday that Geiger is a candidate for the job. Williams, whose office is overseeing the search process, said a list of "10 to 12" candidates would be narrowed next week to four finalists, with an offer being made around the middle of next month.
Asked how familiar he is with Geiger's record, Williams said, "I really didn't know a lot about him before, but what I have learned subsequently about him has all been very positive."
Kirwan wouldn't speculate as to why Geiger might want to leave Maryland for another high-profile athletic director's job. In the past two years, Geiger has been a serious candidate for two other prominent positions. He interviewed for an executive-level job with the United States Olympic Committee, as well as for executive director of the NCAA.
But Kirwan says he doesn't believe it has anything do with the terms of Geiger's contract.
"I think Andy is well compensated," said Kirwan. "I'm not even sure that salary is that big an issue. The idea of creating an environment for success here at Maryland is as much on his mind as anything. I don't think it's a resource issue."
Jim Jones, who recently retired as athletic director at Ohio State, was making an annual salary of $106,000.
Kirwan credits Geiger with a number of accomplishments. Foremost, said Kirwan, was helping bridge the gap with the academic side of the campus. Also, Kirwan said Geiger has brought a divisive department back together, has been a champion of women's and other non-revenue sports, and has taken a tougher stance on the admission of marginally academic athletes.