By Eric Prisbell and Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Maryland athletic department officials and men's basketball coach Gary Williams engaged in an emphatic back-and-forth yesterday over who made the decisions that led to two heralded prospects deciding to attend other schools last offseason, a debate that culminated with Williams questioning the credentials of a senior associate athletic director.
Asked Monday about the program's ability to recruit top-level talent, Williams cited South Florida's Gus Gilchrist and Kent State's Tyree Evans, among others, as players who had enrolled or shown interest in Maryland but had ended up elsewhere.
"Yeah, and it wasn't my fault that they're not here. You know, that was somebody else's call," Williams said.
Kathy Worthington, Maryland's senior associate athletic director, yesterday called Williams's remarks "inaccurate" and said she was "very surprised by Gary's comments because I had been so involved with each recruit."
After Maryland lost to Boston College, 76-67, last night, Williams defended his remarks and his program, and added that "Kathy Worthington doesn't speak for me. She has never won a national championship. She has never done anything. She is an associate AD.
"Why do they jump on me all the time?" Williams said of school officials. "It's somebody else's call. Who said University of Maryland's call? Nobody. Why can't I say that? This is just giving you guys stuff to make me look bad."
The latest chapter in the strained relationship between Williams and athletic department officials comes at a time when Williams's recruiting efforts are under scrutiny because Maryland is facing the prospect of missing the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years.
Worthington said Williams alone made the decision to grant Gilchrist a release from his scholarship by signing a document that enables a player to speak with other schools about transferring. Worthington provided The Washington Post with a copy of the release, which is signed by only Williams and dated May 3, 2008.
"We had put a tremendous amount of work into getting him here," Worthington said of Gilchrist, who had transferred from Virginia Tech. "And it was my recommendation that we not release him and have him stay at least through one season of play. But Gary felt differently, and obviously it is the head coach's choice."
Worthington said she was never under the impression that Williams felt he was under pressure to sign the release.
Williams said Gilchrist had made up his mind to leave and that signing the release had nothing to do with his departure.
When asked if he gets the support he needs in recruiting from the athletic department, Williams said: "I don't want to get into that now. No comment."
The recruitment of Evans in the spring garnered attention because the Richmond native had a long record of criminal offenses, including misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession and assault and battery. But Worthington's review of Evans revealed an additional criminal charge that Evans had not disclosed to the coaching staff.
"At the time, Gary was very upset because Tyree had not disclosed all those incidents to him," Worthington said. "Gary decided, because Tyree had not disclosed all the criminal incidents to him, that he no longer wanted to offer him aid."
As the admissions department was reviewing Evans's case, Worthington said Williams called the Maryland Office of Student Conduct, which typically reviews cases of students with criminal backgrounds along with the admissions department, to say he was no longer interested in Evans.
On May 19, Williams told John Zacker, the director of the Office of Student Conduct, that he did not want Evans on the team because he had not disclosed all of the criminal charges, according to the chronology of events produced by the athletic department and the university's legal office.
Zacker confirmed in a telephone interview that Williams called him to say that there was more to Evans's criminal record than what had previously been disclosed.
In late May, five weeks after Evans signed with Maryland, the shooting guard, then 23, requested and was granted a release from his letter-of-intent, the school announced.
Williams said the reason why Evans did not wind up at Maryland was because "he would have had to go through so much to just be a student on campus after what had been said in the papers."
Williams's recent comments set off the latest squabble between Williams and athletic department officials.
Two sources within the athletic department, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation, said communication between Williams and AD Debbie Yow has been poor for years.
When asked if there is a communication issue, Williams said: "Take a look. I coach here. I've got to live here. That's the way it is. I've coached here for 20 years, long before anyone else was here. Nobody was here 20 years ago."