Wade Quits After Rocky
Three-Year Stint as Coach
By Amy Goldstein
College Park President William E. Kirwan said that Wade, who is being investigated by the university and the NCAA for several possible violations concerning his truthfulness and dealings with players and recruits, had agreed to a $120,000 cash settlement in exchange for his resignation.
Yesterday's events were the latest painful spasm over athletics for College Park, which has been unable to remove a stain that began with the death of all-America forward Bias in June 1986. The scandal spread with revelations that some players were failing their classes, eventually toppling an athletic director and Lefty Driesell, the campus' colorful basketball coach of 17 years.
The recent turmoil involving Wade comes at a particularly difficult time for the school, exposing delicate racial issues and distracting Kirwan, named president just three months ago. He has been eager to cement relations with Maryland's political leaders who support efforts to make the campus a first-rate public university.
The announcement of the resignation, effective May 31, culminated two weeks of negotiations between lawyers for the university and for Wade over the conditions under which he would relinquish his job.
Wade, 44, was the first black head coach of a major sport in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In his three years at Maryland, he compiled a 36-50 won-loss record and had one winning season.
Campus sources said the agreement was signed at 9:30 a.m. yesterday, while Wade remained in Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest Washington, recuperating from back surgery Thursday. In addition to the cash payment, which amounts to about 60 percent of Wade's salary for the remaining two years of his five-year contract, the settlement calls for a university foundation to buy his house near campus and to pay $5,000 toward moving expenses.
He was unavailable for comment yesterday.
For Wade, yesterday's events were a bleak end to an opportunity most coaches only dream of: a chance to catapult from a successful high school basketball program to the NCAA's Division I, the major leagues of college sports.
Then-Chancellor John B. Slaughter plucked Wade from Dunbar High School in Baltimore, where he had worked for 10 years, fielding teams that won 341 of 366 games and frequently ranked among the nation's top 10.
For College Park, eager to stabilize its tarnished basketball program, Wade represented a strong disciplinarian who emphasized academics. More importantly, campus administrators viewed his selection as a way to make inroads in Baltimore and with Maryland blacks at a time when the campus was trying to become more appealing to minority students and professors.
"All the things I wanted to see in a basketball coach were embodied in Bob Wade," Slaughter, who resigned last year himself, said when he announced Wade's appointment.
By yesterday, even top campus administrators acknowledged that Wade, through his own problems with the NCAA, had prolonged the school's athletics troubles, rather than erasing them. "Everybody wanted him to be a winner," said A.H. Edwards, vice president for institutional advancement. "It's too bad it did not happen that way."
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) put the matter more bluntly. "It seemed the university, through coach Wade, just sort of jumped from the frying pan to the fire."
Kirwan, who had insisted for three months he would not act against Wade until he had sufficient reason, said yesterday he became convinced the coach should leave.
"From what I know about the investigation, the circumstances in the basketball program, and the effect this is having on the young people, the players, I concluded it is in the best interest for him to step down," Kirwan said at an afternoon news conference.
He said a campus committee will immediately begin a national search for a new head basketball coach. Athletic Director Lew Perkins said he hopes the job will be filled within three to five weeks.
According to sources, university officials believe investigators have concluded that Wade gave improper rides to class to former Terrapins' guard Rudy Archer, and that Wade misstated his role to investigators afterward. Sources also say investigators believe that, with Wade's knowledge or help, players accumulated frequent flyer bonus points from airline tickets purchased by the athletic department and received small sums of cash on occasion.
Yesterday, Kirwan would not comment on these allegations, saying they remained under investigation. Calling the Wade controversy "an isolated incident," he said, "I feel the overall progress in the athletic department has been excellent," referring to a variety of academic revisions installed in the aftermath of the Bias scandal.
At the news conference, Kirwan faced a thicket of reporters, TV cameras and students in the lobby of the main administration building -- the same place where Slaughter had announced Driesell's departure in October 1986. Many of the students were black, and a few held placards supporting Wade. "I believe there are racial overtones" to Wade's resignation, said Kimya Jones, president of the campus Black Student Association. She contended the campus would have been "much more patient" if the coach were white.
Kirwan has appeared mindful of the latent racial tensions. During the last few weeks, he telephoned and met with several black Maryland politicial leaders to discuss Wade. He "was sensitive to the impact this case would have on the black community -- a community the university has been cultivating for several years," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore).
Rawlings, like other black political leaders, was critical of Perkins, who he contended had tried to orchestrate Wade's departure. "He does not come out of this smelling like a rose. He comes out smelling like a landfill -- a toxic waste one at that."
But he said that Kirwan handled the issue fairly and that Wade's departure probably would not injure the school's relationship with the General Assembly.
Staff writer Dave Sell contributed to this report.