Influential Maryland athletic boosters wanted Jim Kehoe to remain as athletic director for another year in order to smooth the transition period under new university President John Toll, sources told the Post yesterday.
But a split with university Chancellor Robert Gluckstern led Kehoe to announce Thursday that he would retire Sept. 1, at least a year sooner than people close to Kehoe had expected.
"Except for unpleasantries, Jim would have stayed here indefinitely," said Tom Fields, executive director of the Maryland Educational Foundation and a former roommate and longtime friend of Kehoe's.
Gluckstern maintained yesterday that his differences with Kehoe were minor and denied reports that he usurped some of Kehoe's powers and placed a vice chancellor in charge of overseeing Kehoe's activities.
"That's wrong," said Gluckstern. "Kehoe still reports directly to me. And there's never been anything different.
"We had normal differences of opinion that people have in administrative ranks . . . you're never in total agreement."
One of the unpleasantries, or tensions, as Kehoe referred to them in his letter of resignation, centers around an administrative charge in Kehoe's budget process, sources said. That change moved Kehoe's budget from the office of the vice chancellor for administrative affairs to vice chancellor for student affairs, Bud Thomas.
Kehoe denied last night that it triggered his decision to retire, but he said "when you work a number of years with the same people, you have better knowledge, more understanding of the situation."
Gluckstern said yesterday his office will make plans within a week to select a new athletic director. He said an interim appointment may be necessary and said in response to a question that no change in the emphasis of intercolleglate athletics at Maryland is planned.
"I feel the program is a prominent, successful one, and we owe it to Kehoe to keep it that way," Gluckstern said. "It complements the quality of the academic program and I have no plans to change the scope of it."
In reaction to the statement of successful football Coach Jerry Claiborne that he would be interested in the job if he could also remain as coach, Gluckstern said that he was not in a position to comment on that possibility.
Several prominent alumni said yesterday they did not see how one man could handle both jobs successfully, but Claiborne is the most likely candidate already at Maryland. Assistant Athletic Director Russ Potts has accepted the athletic director's job at Southern methodist University and said after Kehoe's announcement that he still plans to move to Dallas.
One of the nation's most respected athletic directors observed that Maryland's new AD " . . . should have a business background and a promotion background because dollars are so tight everywhere." Don Canham of the University of Michigan said, "we gross $8 million and we're not home free by any means. It's not easy.
"Why would a head guy leave and take someone else's headaches?"
While the football and basketball coaching jobs at Maryland are considered plums in the college ranks, the athletic director's position is not considered in the top 20 nationally on the basis of prestige and revenue from sports. In fact, according to sources, not one ACC athletic directorship rates in the top 20. Sources say ACC football programs are still not as profitable as in the Big 10, Pacific 10 and Big 8 Conferences.
Under Kehoe, the entire top echelon of administrators were either Maryland men, military men of both. Maryland had not had a non-alumnus athletic director since the football glory days of Jim Tatum in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Tatum was both AD and football coach.
Gluckstern said he would consider going outside the Maryland circle "if necessary to find the best possible person we can."
Outside Maryland's own family, these names were mentioned yesterday as possibilities:
Cedric N. Dempsey, athletic director at the University of Pacific; Bob Murphy, athletic director at San Jose State; Otto Breitenbach, associate athletic director at Wisconsin, and Bob Marcum, associate athletic director at Iowa State.
The general campus reaction yesterday was shock. Coaches of nonrevenue sports expressed hopes that their programs won't be de-emphasized in favor of football and basketball, as has happened atsome other schools.