Before he resigned as Maryland athletic director in April after a six-month “professional development sabbatical,” Kevin Anderson directed the hiring of an attorney with athletic department funds to represent two student-athletes in a sexual misconduct case, the university said in a statement Thursday.
Maryland said that Anderson failed to cut ties with the attorney when ordered to do so by campus officials. Though no NCAA bylaws were broken, the then-athletic director showed “a serious lack of judgment,” the university said in the statement.
According to a report Thursday by Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, Anderson used $15,000 in athletic department funds to hire an attorney to represent two football players accused of sexual misconduct. Through a public information request, The Diamondback reported that a $15,000 payment was made to a legal firm in Montgomery, Ala., named The Sports Group.
“At this time, all I’m going to say is this story is inaccurate,” Anderson told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday night.
Donald Maurice Jackson, a lawyer with The Sports Group, came to the defense of Anderson in a Facebook post in which he shared The Diamondback’s story late Thursday night.
“Notably, this article contains numerous factual inaccuracies that were meant to paint Kevin Anderson in an unflattering and (I believe) false light,” Jackson wrote. “Mr. Anderson did not retain TSG, did not negotiate terms of our engagement and (to my knowledge) did not authorize payment. As a matter of fact, I (personally) had minimal interaction with Mr. Anderson during the pendency of this matter.”
Jackson said the firm has “represented a number of University of Maryland student-athletes in multiple sports” over the past three years.
According to Katie Lawson, the university’s Chief Communications Officer, campus officials first learned about the arrangement between the then-athletic director and the two football players on Aug. 29, 2017. By then, the lawyer had been representing them for two months.
The statement went on to say that the matter was brought to the attention of university president Wallace D. Loh by “the then-Executive Athletic Director” when the lawyer “submitted an invoice to the department.” Damon Evans, who was named acting athletic director when Anderson went on sabbatical and was hired on a permanent basis in late June, held the title of executive athletic director at that time.
“The President's Office, the Office of General Counsel, the Athletic Compliance Office and the then-Executive Athletic Director were not involved in or consulted on the original decision made to hire and pay the lawyer. Protocols requiring General Counsel to retain outside counsel had not been followed in the hiring,” Thursday’s statement said.
According to NCAA bylaw 16.3.2, which deals with expenses related to Legal and Other Proceedings, schools may pay for legal representation and necessary expenses to attend proceedings “that relate to the student-athlete’s eligibility to participate in intercollegiate athletics.”
In 2014, the NCAA's executive committee unanimously passed a resolution stating athletic departments should not “manage, direct, control or interfere with college or university investigations into allegations of sexual violence, ensuring that investigations involving student-athletes and athletics department staff are managed in the same manner as all other students and staff on campus.”
Though Anderson didn’t break any NCAA rules, Maryland said in its statement that “the decision to hire this lawyer showed a serious lack of judgment in a sexual misconduct case, given the university’s commitment to a fair and impartial handling of all such matters.”
Sources have said that Anderson agreed to a financial settlement — including a non-disclosure agreement that prevents him from talking about his departure — shortly after his sabbatical began.
According to the statement released Thursday, the case involving the two players was handled by the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.
In a January phone interview with The Diamondback, Catherine Carroll, the director of the university's Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct at the time, said that the hiring of a lawyer pro bono to represent one party in a dispute while the other party had to pay could be considered unfair.
"The university never is paying for any of that [legal representation]," Carroll said. "We do provide referrals to both parties. So we'll provide legal assistance referrals to respondents or other types of legal resources in the state of Maryland to complainants."