COLLEGE PARK -- The University of Maryland did its part yesterday to alter the old-boy network that runs intercollegiate athletics.
Deborah A. Yow, most recently the athletic director at Saint Louis University, was introduced as the new athletic director at Maryland. She is the first female athletic director in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference, and one of only four women running one of the 106 college athletic programs that have football teams playing in Division I-A, the NCAA's highest designation.
With Dr. Suzanne Tyler remaining as the university's senior associate director of athletics, Maryland becomes the only Division I-A athletic department with women in the top two administrative positions.
"This decision makes a statement about the institution and the image we want to convey," said Maryland President William E. Kirwan. "She [Yow] is only one person, and she isn't going to be able to solve society's problems, but she has a lot going for her. Her personal values are ones I find compatible with my own."
When Ms. Yow, 42, takes over the Maryland athletic department on Aug. 28, she will become the first woman to head two different Division I athletic programs, but she is accustomed to breaking ground.
When Ms. Yow moved to the administrative side of intercollegiate athletics in 1985 at age 33, she left behind a successful career coaching women's basketball. She had become the first coach in the history of NCAA Division I men's or women's basketball to take three previously unranked programs into the Top 20.
She has been deeply involved in administration and fund raising for nearly the past decade, however, and is well aware of the significance of her new job.
"There are 13 of us [women athletic directors among the 302 NCAA Division I colleges], but I'm the only one in the second generation," Ms. Yow said. "Leadership isn't a gender issue, but we have a great opportunity to make an impact."
Last week, Ms. Yow said she wanted to remain at Saint Louis, but she and Dr. Kirwan came to a basic agreement Friday night, and spent the weekend ironing out some of the details on a five-year contract that has an annual base salary of $130,000.
Ms. Yow was one of four finalists recommended by a search committee that formed in May, when Andy Geiger resigned as Maryland athletic director after four years to take the same position at Ohio State. Ms. Yow, Tulane's Kevin White, East Carolina's Dave Hart and Dave Maggard, formerly of California and now with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, were recommended by the committee, but all said they were nothing more than consultants in Maryland's search process.
"It never really was a question of who was the first choice," Dr. Kirwan said. "It was a matter of having a series of conversations with people, and seeing who was the best mutual fit. There were a lot of what-ifs, but she was the only one that got a formal offer."
The first meeting between Dr. Kirwan and Ms. Yow turned into a five-hour lunch, and they still have much to discuss.
Once dominant athletically in the ACC, Maryland teams ranked worst in the conference last year. Although men's basketball is on the rise and several women's teams have achieved national acclaim, the football team has had one winning season in the past seven, and the athletic department's budget deficit exceeds $6.2 million.
Ms. Yow said, "I'm known as a coach's AD," but she has built a reputation as an effective fund-raiser.
The University of Florida created a position for Ms. Yow in the Gator Club in 1985, and that organization raised $6.5 million in her first year there. During 1987 to 1990, Ms. Yow was the associate athletic director at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and her organizational efforts aided that institution's move to Division I.
Ms. Yow was the youngest female athletic director in Division I when she took over at Saint Louis. She established the Billiken Club, which coordinated gifts to the athletic department, and recently completed negotiations for the men's basketball team to play in a new, 21,000-seat sports complex.
Last season, Billikens men's basketball ranked second nationally in percentage increase of attendance. Interest in the Saint Louis program was spurred by Ms. Yow's hiring of Charlie Spoonhour, whom others had been unable to lure away from Southwest Missouri State University.
Ms. Yow comes from a coaching family.
An older sister, Kay, directed the U.S. women's basketball team to the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics, and is entering her 20th year at North Carolina State University. Younger sister Susan is the head coach at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
THE YOW FILE
Hometown: Gibsonville, N.C.
Education: Bachelor of arts from Elon College; master's degree from Liberty University; Ph.D. from Baptist Christian University.
Family: Married to Dr. William A. Bowden.
Coaching experience: Burlington and Eastern Guilford high schools in North Carolina; directed Kentucky, Oral Roberts and Florida to NCAA tournament.
Administrative experience: Assistant director of Florida Gator Boosters, 1985-1987; associate athletic director at University of North Carolina-Greensboro, 1987-1990; athletic director at Saint Louis University, 1990-1994; member of the NCAA Council of the executive committee of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
Goals at Maryland: Improving the performance of Maryland teams from last in the ACC to the upper half of the conference in five years; eliminating the budget deficit in eight to 10 years; graduating athletes at a rate equal to or higher than the general student population and maintaining a graduation rate among the top 20 percent of I-A programs.