Kevin Anderson was standing outside of the visiting media area at Penn State's Beaver Stadium on Nov. 1, watching on as Maryland coach Randy Edsall conducted an interview following just the Terps' second win in their history over the Nittany Lions.
When a reporter went up to Anderson to shake his hand and congratulate the Terps' athletic director on the victory, Anderson — as happy as he was — smiled and pulled the reporter in for a hug instead.
That was a special win for Anderson, and part of what is proving to be a significant year for Anderson and Maryland's athletic department.
The Terps' basketball team is ranked 15th nationally in the latest AP poll. Maryland's football team has posted back-to-back winning seasons for just the third time since 1985 and is preparing to play in the Foster Farms Bowl against Stanford.
Everything is beginning to come together as Anderson hoped it would when he hired basketball coach Mark Turgeon and football coach Randy Edsall in 2011.
"I really feel good about the future of these programs, not only the immediate future but as we move on with the recruiting that Mark and Randy are doing," said Anderson, a San Francisco native who was hired in 2010 after seven years as the athletic director at Army. "And the potential student-athletes that are going to come in here and play with the ones we have already, I think we're going to have some exciting days to come."
Anderson has been vital in this process, a driving force behind the scenes providing the tools for Turgeon, Edsall and other Maryland coaches to be competitive following the Terps' move to the Big Ten.
"I always felt with athletic directors, they give the coach the tools," said former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, who serves as Maryland's Senior Managing Director for Alumni Relations and Athletic Development. "In other words, you can be a very good basketball coach and can have very good players. But you also need the tools — by that, I mean the budgets, the equal playing field that the other schools in your conference have — you also need to have the tools necessary to be successful."
This process has not been seamless.
Anderson parted ways with long-time football coach Ralph Friedgen before hiring Edsall and was forced to replace a national championship-winning coach in Williams following Williams' retirement in 2011.
Maryland also cut seven sports teams in 2012 to help the university overcome a multi-million-dollar deficit.
As recently as earlier this year, Anderson expressed concern about his perception among fans and alumni to friend Frank Kelly, who served 12 years in the Maryland Senate and is a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.
Maryland's football team had won just 13 games during Edsall's first three seasons while dealing with numerous injuries to key players. The Terps' basketball team had gone three straight seasons without making the NCAA tournament under Turgeon, had recently completed a disappointing 17-15 season and was dealing with the negative attention that came along with five players leaving the program.
"Kevin said, 'You know, Frank, if we don't do well this year they're going to be after my head,' and I can remember saying, 'They're never going to get your head as long as I'm around because I'm not going to let it happen,'" Kelly recalled. "Even if they didn't do well this year, I would be solidly behind Kevin Anderson. … I love the guy. I can't say enough good things about him. He has all the great qualities you want in a leader."
This year has begun to validate Anderson's two biggest hires — Turgeon and Edsall. Anderson was also a key figure in Maryland's move to the Big Ten and in the development and finalization of plans to transform Cole Field House into an innovative indoor football practice facility and athletic complex.
"We want to be the best in the classroom. We want to win to conference championships and to be in national championships. That's what we talk about all the time," Anderson said. "The other thing we want to do is be innovative in intercollegiate athletics. And one thing we're trying to address for our program is that we really address the needs of the 21st century student-athlete."