COLLEGE PARK - More than seven months after Maryland ended relationships with two highly touted men's basketball recruits, coach Gary Williams and athletic department officials are offering conflicting accounts of what happened and why.
Kathleen Worthington, a senior associate athletic director, yesterday questioned Williams' statements about forward Gus Gilchrist and guard Tyree Evans, who were to have been integral parts of Maryland's recruiting class.
Williams had told reporters Monday: "It wasn't my fault that they're not here. That was somebody else's call."
But Worthington telephoned The Baltimore Sun yesterday and said: "I want to clarify the facts and the timing and the decision process of these situations. It was my recommendation that we not sign a release for Gus. I didn't want to release him. It was the head coach's decision. No one else released Gus."
In a document dated June 3 and signed by Williams, the university released Gilchrist, now averaging 10.8 points at South Florida. "Mr. Gilchrist has expressed an interest in pursuing opportunities at other institutions in the sport of men's basketball," the document said.
Williams said last night that he signed Gilchrist's release because the 6-foot-10 player was going to leave anyway.
"He was going to leave. Me signing the release had nothing to do with it," Williams said after Maryland's 76-67 loss to Boston College. "He had made up his mind. Why not sign a release and let the kid go where he wants? Why am I bad for signing a release? .... Kathy Worthington doesn't speak for me, she has never won a national championship, she has never done anything. She's an associate AD. This is just giving you guys stuff to make me look bad."
Gilchrist left at least partly because of Atlantic Coast Conference rules restricting the number of semesters he could play. He had originally signed with another ACC school, Virginia Tech, and he stood to lose a semester of eligibility if he remained in the conference.
The 6-3 Evans, averaging 12.8 points for Kent State, was also due to be a Terp. Worthington said Williams terminated Evans' recruitment after learning details of the former community college player's troubled past.
"Gary made the final decision to withdraw an offer of aid to Tyree and personally called the Office of Student Affairs to inform them he was no longer recruiting Tyree Evans because Tyree had not disclosed all of the criminal issues he'd had in his past," she said. "Gary became upset that Tyree hadn't disclosed everything."
After last night's game Williams said: "What had been in the paper for two straight weeks was you shouldn't make that kid come into that situation here. He would have had to go through so much just being a student on campus after everything that was said in the papers. ... I've run a clean program for 20 years. Check my record."
Maryland has been hurt by a shortage of talented newcomers - as well as an overall lack of size - this season, leading to questions about Williams' recruiting. Current and former staff members in Maryland's basketball program and athletic department have questioned whether Williams' hands-on recruiting is adequate.
The Evans and Gilchrist disputes show continued strain in the relationship between the coach and the department. The strain was evident last year when AD Debbie Yow told The Sun she didn't know - at least until late in the process - that Williams was recruiting Evans, whose background includes misdemeanors for marijuana possession and a prep school assault. A handgun charge wasn't pursued by prosecutors.
Evans was offered a scholarship by Maryland last spring. He obtained a waiver from a school policy that recommends against allowing junior-college transfers such as Evans to be "individual admits." Individual admits are applicants possessing special skills - such as athletics - who don't meet the standard academic criteria required of the general student body.
But in May, Maryland abruptly issued a statement saying it had accepted Evans' decision to be released. Williams said at the time: "After much thought, Tyree felt Maryland was not the best fit for him at this time, and I support his decision."
John Zacker, director of Maryland's Office of Student Conduct, said yesterday that Williams called the office last year to share troubling information about Evans.
"He shared with me there was prior criminal history, and he found out subsequently there were other criminal matters not disclosed to him," Zacker said. "Gary was letting me know there were some discrepancies."
Zacker's office is responsible for reviewing student applicants with criminal histories. The office never reviewed Evans' case, though - apparently because Evans and the university parted ways before that could happen.