Maryland announced Wednesday that former men's basketball coach and Hall of Famer Gary Williams will oversee fundraising projects geared toward improving and building athletic facilities at the university.
Williams, 69, has served as an assistant to Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson since he announced his retirement from coaching in May of 2011. In that role, Williams helped the athletic department with fundraising.
In his new role, as senior managing director for alumni relations and athletic development, Williams will be working with the entire university. Terms of his contract were not disclosed.
"There's nobody that I can think of at the University of Maryland that can do that [fundraising] better than Gary Williams," Anderson said. "He's a great ambassador. He played here, he coached here, he's a Hall of Famer, he won a national championship."
Williams said that one of his first tasks will be helping raise funds for a new indoor football practice facility. Sources said that a number of plans are being considered, one being the possibility of renovating and enlarging Cole Field House to accommodate the kind of indoor football facility that exists or is being built at other Big Ten schools. A university source said that the facility would include space for academics and research.
"That can be something that can be done at Maryland," Williams said. "We are considered a Northern school, and that can be X'd out as a factor in recruiting [if the football team has an indoor space to practice]. I think that's something that will be looked at pretty quickly."
As for using Cole Field House as a potential site, Williams said: "If we go there, it keeps it in athletics as long as it's called Cole Field House. People know Cole Field House — people who've been a part of basketball, not just Maryland basketball. Right now, nobody has heard much of Cole since we moved out to Comcast Center [in 2002]. That would bring Cole back into the mix."
A 1968 graduate, Williams returned to Maryland in 1989 and brought a basketball program that was about to go on NCAA probation back to national prominence, helping the Terps reach the Final Four for the first time in 2001 and win the national championship the following year.
Williams was inducted last month into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., and he will be inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo., in November.
The school is now betting that he can replicate his success in this new role.
"I like to think of Gary as our new head coach of athletic fundraising and alumni outreach," Maryland president Wallace D. Loh said in a statement. "And I'm confident that he will have the same success off the court as he did on it."
Williams coached in the Big Ten at Ohio State before coming to Maryland, and has worked as a television analyst for the Big Ten Network since retiring from coaching. He said he would like to see the Terps' alumni match the involvement he's seen at other schools in the conference, which Maryland officially joined in July.
"We have a great opportunity and it's now, going into the Big Ten," Williams said. "Large state universities are very capable of doing extensive fundraising. The Wisconsins, the Michigans, the Ohio States, they do a good job of raising money. I just think there are [Maryland] people waiting for that message."
The university raised $142 million in donations last year, the highest figure in school history. The athletic department raised a little over $8 million for scholarships through the 8,000-member Terrapin Club. In comparison, Big Ten power Michigan raised nearly $30 million in 2011-12.
University spokesman Brian Ullmann said a metric used to measure support is the alumni participation rate. Based on the number of alums who donate to the university divided by the total number of living alums, Maryland's participation rate is around 9 percent.
Ullman said that the rate at other Big Ten schools is higher, as high as 19 percent at Michigan and 14 percent at Ohio State.
"We think we can do better and we think Gary can help us do better," Ullman said.
Anderson said Loh's mandate goes beyond Maryland's new membership in the Big Ten.
"It's very clear that the vision of our president is that he expects us to be a top 10 school — period," Anderson said. "To be a top 10 school, we have to be very aggressive in our fundraising and having our alumni involved."
Anderson said that since he replaced Debbie Yow in 2010, those with financial ties to the university have stressed to him the importance of getting more former Terps involved in the day-to-day operation of the athletic department. Getting Williams on board is a major coup to that end.
"There's nobody more Maryland than Gary Williams," Anderson said.
Williams helped raise money for Maryland's business school while he was coaching, and he also served as co-chair with fellow alum Connie Chung for the past few years on the university's $1 billion Great Expectations campaign. Williams said he is "excited" about his new role.
"Having coached for 22 years [at Maryland] and having played in the 60s, I've got a couple of generations of people that I know who are Maryland people," he said. "Hopefully we can change the thinking about what it means to be part of a university even after you've graduated."