Assessing the pros and cons of Maryland's athletic director candidates

With Maryland on the brink of naming Kevin Anderson’s successor as athletic director, there has been much discussion in recent days among fans, alumni and coaches regarding the candidacy of the three men who were interviewed last week for the job.

Current Temple athletic director Patrick Kraft has reportedly emerged as the favorite over acting athletic director Damon Evans and former Tennessee and Kansas State athletic director John Currie. An announcement could come as soon as Tuesday.

Here are some of the pros and cons for each of the candidates:

Patrick Kraft

Temple athletic director

Age: 40

Pros: Has experience in the Big Ten, having gone from walk-on football player at Indiana to becoming a senior assistant athletic director there after getting three degrees, including a Ph.D., all related to sports management. Kraft was credited with increasing football ticket sales in Bloomington, which is something that is crucial in College Park. He also helped increase donations at Temple over 75 percent during his stint as athletic director.

Cons: Has been an athletic director for only three years, and the jury is still out on Kraft’s one significant hire, football coach Geoff Collins, who finished 7-6 in his first season after replacing Matt Rhule. Despite many efforts, Kraft has not received much if any community support to build a football stadium and was criticized for trying to force out longtime men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy after last season.

One reason Kraft will get the job: Has less baggage than the other two candidates who were interviewed, and has built a relationship with Kevin Plank — a former Maryland football walk-on — through Temple’s endorsement deal with Under Armour. While Plank has never strong-armed his alma mater into hiring a candidate he favors, having someone from the Under Armour family has to be a plus.

One reason he might not: If this has been a done deal between Maryland president Wallace D. Loh and Evans since the weeks leading up to Anderson going on that ill-fated six-month “professional development sabbatical” back in mid-October, the hiring of an outside search firm after Anderson left in mid-April might have simply just been a six-figure, two-month smokescreen for what many figured would happen all along.

Damon Evans

Maryland senior executive athletic director (and acting AD)

Age: 48

Pros: Since coming to Maryland as Anderson’s top aide in November 2014, Evans has shown the political savvy that his predecessor lacked in building relationships with several coaches, at least one prominent booster in Barry Gossett and the most important campus official of all — Loh. Before getting fired at Georgia in 2010, Evans was considered a rising star in his business.

Cons: After Anderson quietly disappeared from Xfinity Center in late September, Evans shook up his staff, including forcing out the department’s well-respected top female administrator, Lori Ebihara, who went on “personal leave” (similar to Anderson’s sabbatical) in December and only recently was removed from the payroll. As the department’s chief financial officer since arriving, Evans has not had much of an impact on improving the department’s money woes.

One reason Evans will get the job: Along with Loh, he has the support of several on the search committee, including Gossett and longtime field hockey coach Missy Meharg. Also, with the recent death of football player Jordan McNair (McDonogh) and the independent investigation into whether trainers and support staff followed protocol, it will be difficult for an outsider to step in and build the kind of relationship he has with coach DJ Durkin. Another factor is that Evans, who is making a little over $400,000 a year, would come a lot cheaper than the other two.

One reason Evans might not: The circumstances surrounding Evans’ firing as athletic director at Georgia in 2010, which included Evans being convicted of DUI, are a tough blot to remove. Loh might decide he doesn’t want to chance another big misstep that could ultimately affect his own future and legacy.

John Currie

Former Tennessee athletic director

Age: 47

Pros: Easily the most experienced of the three remaining candidates, and perhaps the most successful. While his reign in Knoxville lasted just nine months, Currie’s eight-year tenure as athletic director at Kansas State included success in men’s basketball and football. He made a terrific hire in men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber. The athletic department had a surplus for six straight years.

Cons: With potential personnel changes looming — the sudden uncertainty surrounding Durkin’s future unless the independent review unequivocally clears him and his training staff for McNair’s death, plus questions about men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon by a growing base of dissatisfied fans — the fiasco after the firing of Volunteers football coach Butch Jones last fall doesn’t help Currie.

One reason Currie will get the job: Because Currie is owed more than $5 million from Tennessee, he also wouldn’t have to command top dollar either and might be willing to backload his own deal to make it work for Maryland.

One reason he might not: Currie appears to be a long shot at this point and would need Kraft and possibly Evans to back out, which seems very unlikely if Loh is making the call.

 

 

don.markus@baltsun.com

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