UMBC athletic director Tim Hall, left, and new men's basketball head coach Ryan Odom, right, conduct their first news conference after the introduction ceremony on campus.
UMBC athletic director Tim Hall, left, and new men's basketball head coach Ryan Odom, right, conduct their first news conference after the introduction ceremony on campus. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Tim Hall has long prided himself on understanding his comfort level and staying in his lane professionally. In Hall’s case, it’s being an athletic director at what is now called Division I-AAA institutions — schools that play mid-major Division I basketball but don’t field a football team.

It’s also at programs that are in the midst of building or rebuilding.

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Six years after coming to UMBC from the University of Kansas-Kansas City, the 48-year old Hall is leaving Baltimore for another Midwest locale — Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Hall will begin Aug. 5 as UMBC launches a national search for his successor.

“I visited with the folks out there last week, and it seemed like a great match between my skill set, my experience and my talents and the opportunities that are in front of them right now,” Hall said of the Ohio Valley Conference school, which has 16 teams split evenly between men’s and women’s sports. “It’s not too dissimilar from when I arrived at UMBC.”

Hall said that he has been approached over the year to move to a Football Bowl Subdivision program in a Power 5 conference to be the No. 2 person in the athletic department, but preferred to be the man in charge at mid-majors without football programs.

“I always felt that the 1-AAA level is the right fit for me,” he said.

Hall’s connection to SIU-Edwardsville, located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, is with the school’s chancellor, Randy Pembrook, with whom Hall worked with at UK-KC during Hall’s six-year tenure there. Hall said that he wouldn’t have made the move without the approval of his wife and their four children.

“In our industry, as in many industries, you get labelled based on your experiences and your expertise and they really want to build on a foundation, make all their programs better, especially men’s basketball,” Hall said. "UMBC is a special place and it was tough [leaving], but ... this is in our wheelhouse both personally and professionally.

“When you’re in a situation where you have an opportunity to really use your talents and your skill set and your experiences to advance a program, and I think we’ve advanced UMBC pretty far. I’ve had a number of other opportunities when people reached out to me and this just was the right fit This is one where all the boxes checked. It’s as clear as that."

Hall leaves the Retrievers in a lot better place than they were when he arrived. No better example is in men’s basketball. Before the hiring of a then-relatively unknown Ryan Odom from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) in 2016, UMBC had suffered through eight straight losing seasons, including a seven-year stretch when the Retrievers won a total of 41 games.

Odom’s three teams have won at least 20 games — a first at the Catonsville school.

Along with UMBC pulling off the most stunning victory in NCAA men’s basketball tournament history — the 20-point win over No. 1 seed Virginia in 2018, the only win by a No. 16 team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams — the Retrievers also reached the semifinals of the men’s soccer tournament in 2014.

Most recently, UMBC teams won a school-record four conference titles in 2018-19.

“He’s led us through probably the most successful time in UMBC athletics history, a lot to be proud of," Odom said in a telephone interview Monday night.

Hall also oversaw the move of the program from the Retriever Activities Center to the $85 million UMBC Event Center in early 2018.

“I think we’ve done some pretty good things and I’m confident that they’re going to get another great leader that will take them to even greater heights,” Hall said. “I’m unbelievably grateful to the folks at UMBC for the opportunity. We had a vision. People always ask me, ‘Did you think Ryan could win?’ and I’d say, ‘I didn’t know it would be this quick, but I thought he’d be successful.”

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In a statement released by the school, UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski said: "Tim has played a central role in some historic UMBC moments. We are grateful for his many contributions to the UMBC community, and wish him and his family all the best in his new role.”

UMBC has also had success academically with its athletic teams. With 10 of 17 teams recording a collective 3.0 GPA, the overall GPA of its student-athletes in 2018-19 was 3.09, a fraction off the record-high 3.10 set the previous year.

Along with its success, UMBC athletics was not immune to controversy under Hall.

Last fall, three women with ties to UMBC joined a lawsuit against Baltimore County authorities, including UMBC and the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland, among others, that alleged systemic indifference to crimes of sexual violence and bias against women.

One plaintiff, a former UMBC student, alleged that she was raped by four UMBC basketball players on campus in 2014, according to the suit, and another said she was assaulted by three UMBC baseball players at a home.

Two of the basketball players were later expelled, but Baltimore County detectives and the state’s attorney’s office determined there was not evidence that a crime had occurred.

In April, the three baseball players sued a woman who accused them of sexual assault for defamation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and invasion of privacy.

Hall said the most recent off-field issues had nothing to do with his departure.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I have a contract through 2022. We always say we try educate upfront on all that kind of stuff and then on the back end you’re ready to support people.”

Odom said that Hall’s ability to hire the right coaching candidates and later support them is at the heart of Hall’s success.

“He’s done an amazing job of supporting his people,” Odom said. “That’s what an AD does. They have to support their coaches and help them do the best that they can. They [ADs] are not always able to say ‘Yes’ to everything, right? At the same time, they do their best to help you grow. I think Tim has clearly done that since he’s been here.”

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