Speculation over the Terrapins’ search for the next athletic director has intensified following the resignation of Kevin Anderson last Friday.
Given that Anderson, the athletic director at the University of Maryland since 2010, had been on a professional leave of absence since last October, news of his resignation did not come as a surprise to some.
In his time at College Park, Anderson oversaw the university’s move to the Big Ten Conference and saw the Terrapins win six national championships. He also was an advocate for programs that increased academic success and career development for student-athletes.
Over the next few weeks, the university will launch a national search for the next athletic director. Executive athletic director Damon Evans has served as interim in Anderson’s absence and will continue to do so until a new athletic director is named.
Evans, who currently oversees the department and its operating budget of $94.8 million in fiscal year 2017, is considered a top candidate for the position. He served as director of athletics at the University of Georgia from 2004 to 2010, when he resigned after a DUI arrest and other conduct that made headlines.
A former college football player who earned a master’s degree in education, Evans left intercollegiate athletics for several years. He returned to join the Terrapins organization in December 2014.
Some wonder if Maryland will be receptive to another African-American athletic director and whether Evans will get the position. There are very few individuals of color in athletic director positions at institutions in the Power 5 conferences. The “2017 College Sport Racial & Gender Report Card” presented by Dr. Richard Lapchick and The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) reported just 22 people of color in athletic director positions out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.
“Maryland has proven itself over time, having had John Slaughter as chancellor,” Lapchick, a renowned scholar on issues of sports and race, told Diverse. “Obviously, Kevin [Anderson] was there for a while. Their track record is being open to hiring the best person. Whoever they’re going to hire will have to work with the donors to keep them confident that the department is going in the right direction,” he added.
And that reality could tip the scales against a minority candidate, said Dr. Steve Bien-Aime, an assistant professor at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication.
“There is still a stereotype that minorities can be the star athlete, but not necessarily in charge of the program,” he said. “When you’re looking at the job, a lot of it is fundraising, meeting with donors, sponsors and the like, and there is still some sort of good old boys network.”
At the same time, there is no reason that Maryland would not again hire an African-American athletic director, a role similar to a corporate CEO, Bien-Aime said.
“If people look at diversity hires as these politically correct actions, then they’re viewing diversity all wrong,” he said. “Just like in business, you’re trying to have a robust stream of talent in ideas. If everybody comes from the same pool, we’re not getting the robust ideas, new things. That will be detrimental to any athletic program.”
Maryland graduate Len Elmore, who played in the NBA and then graduated from Harvard Law School, was part of the search committee that identified and chose Anderson. He said Evans has worked in Maryland’s athletic department for several years, so he is certainly familiar with the university and the athletic program, but there should still be a careful search before the next AD is named.
“Scan the horizon and see who is out there,” said Elmore, who in recent years has worked as a college basketball television analyst and teaches in the Columbia University School of Professional Studies’ Sports Management program. “My alma mater is entitled to the best opportunity, the best athletic director, the best fit, if you will.”
Elmore said Maryland’s president, Dr. Wallace Loh, made a good decision to assemble a search committee and carefully vet potential candidates. He sees no obstacles to the university hiring another African-American athletic director.
“For me, it’s all about getting the best possible candidate,” said Elmore. “Within that matrix there has to be a number of qualified and quality African-American candidates, male and female. It’s not so much about making the decision to hire someone of color, but it’s the idea of inclusion. From there, may the best person win. Every candidate, regardless of color, would want that.”
Elmore said that while the small number of African-American athletic directors in Division I athletics is important to discuss, it is not an issue at Maryland.
“Maryland takes a back seat to no one when it comes to recognizing the importance of diversity and being able to live up to the initiatives that people many times just pay lip service to. I’m proud of Maryland for that,” said Elmore.
An advocate for student-athletes, Elmore wants to see an AD with strength of character and commitment to the role the athletic department plays in the greater educational mission.
And as an engaged Maryland alum, Elmore said he would like to see somebody with some Maryland ties.
“You have to find a balance; that’s where the character and conviction come in and the persuasiveness to be able to sell that case to boards of trustees and to presidents,” said Elmore, who previously has been on the board of trustees. “It doesn’t have to be runaway commercialism and out-of-control spending to be able to achieve the goals. You need somebody who understands that. After that, obviously skills with regard to balancing budgets, being able to find new ways they can raise revenue without hurting the health, safety and welfare of student-athletes.”
“Maryland owes it to the alumni and the students to go out there and look for the absolute very best,” Elmore added. “It could be Damon Evans. It could be somebody else. You need a committee of experienced people from a number of walks of life to be able to make that determination, vet those that are qualified and come up with the best individual.”