By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 7, 2010; 11:08 PM
Conference realignment, escalating costs to remain competitive and an NCAA crackdown on some of its most recognizable programs have made for an unpredictable time of upheaval in college sports.
"A pivotal time," said Kevin Anderson, Maryland's new athletic director.
But in College Park, one issue overshadows all others: intra-office cohesion. Echoing a sentiment expressed by men's basketball coach Gary Williams, Anderson told an overflow crowd of media, coaches, school officials and supporters Tuesday that he will immediately look to build "cohesion in the athletic department."
Perhaps as early as Oct. 1, Anderson, Army's athletic director since 2004, will succeed Debbie Yow, who left after nearly 16 years to take the same position at North Carolina State in June. Terms of Anderson's contract were not disclosed.
In recent years, Williams's strained relationship with Yow occasionally boiled over into public discord. Tension between Yow and football coach Ralph Friedgen grew as struggles on the field mounted. The first specific objective Anderson detailed Tuesday: a plan for a unified team.
"It is necessary to link the entire institution," Anderson said. "I will be committed to building partnerships with everyone within the walls of the institution, as well as going outside and strengthening existing relationships and forming new ones."
Williams, a member of the school's 17-person search committee, said Saturday he supported Anderson because he felt Anderson could make the department more cohesive.
Women's basketball coach Brenda Frese, another member of the search committee, said Anderson was impressive because of the "energy you felt and how he presented himself - 'It's not about me, it's about we' - and just being an extension of a team that is working together."
With a black Terps hat covering his silver hair, Anderson charmed the crowd for 22 minutes with intermittent humor, as he articulated his big-picture vision for leading a 27-sport department with a $55 million budget. The light touch belied his management style.
The son of a World War II Army sergeant, Anderson is a self-described straight-shooter who promised "you will quickly learn my leadership style. I am demanding, but I am fair."
Anderson met with coaches Tuesday and plans regular meetings with them about recruiting, budgets and other issues. Williams, Friedgen and Frese were in attendance Tuesday to hear Anderson speak of high expectations - "My vision is to go from good to great" - and his blunt communication style.
"You'll always know what the score and the time is," Anderson said of his approach with coaches. "There is not going to be any surprises. We're going to be very clear."
Nariman Farvardin, Maryland's acting president, said Anderson possesses "unparalleled integrity." To that point, Anderson even took time Tuesday to apologize to colleagues at West Point because news of his hiring at Maryland leaked before he got a chance to tell them.
Wallace Loh, Maryland's new president, recounted when he called Anderson to offer him the job. Three hours later, after Anderson had discussed the offer with wife Moira, Anderson called Loh and accepted.
"He accepted the position before we even talked about salary," Loh said.
While at Army, Anderson helped develop and manage a $25 million budget and turned an operating deficit of more than $1 million into a $2.73 million surplus in five years. Anderson also has served as chair of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Issues Committee.
Anderson said he would like college coaches to have more access to recruits because he believes it is difficult, under current rules, to forge strong enough relationships to best decide whether prospects are good fits for a particular school. Coaches, including Williams, have long lamented strict recruiting guidelines that allow outside influences to have more access to recruits than college coaches.
Anderson also believes the NBA and NBA Players' Association should work with the NCAA to alter the age restriction, which requires players to go to college for one year before they can enter the draft. Many coaches, including Williams, have said that, under the current rule, some players use college as a mere pit-stop and eschew academic responsibilities.
"You know the credentials, you know the experience and you know the accomplishments of Kevin Anderson," Loh said. "At the end of the day, it's not what they [candidates] have done that makes the difference. It is their values and the content of their character."