In Tuesday's editions of The Washington Post, former Maryland athletic director Carl James was reported to have called the Terrapin football team "weak," along with the golf and soccer teams this year. James did not make such an assessment of the football team. The Washington Post regrets the error.
Carl James, athletic director at the University of Maryland, was named commissioner of the Big Eight Conference yesterday.
James, 50, was chosen by conference athletic directors and faculty representatives in a 14-1 vote yesterday. He will resign as Maryland's athletic director after holding the job there since Sept. 1, 1978.
Speculation on a successor to James immediately centered on Russ Potts, currently athletic director at Southern Methodist, but formerly an assistant athletic director at Maryland under James' predecessor, Jim Kehoe.
James said last night that he would remain at Maryland until about July 1. He said that he did not plan on participating in selecting a successor.
"It was a tough decision for me," he said. "But this is something that I've always wanted to do. There are just a few of these jobs in the country and they don't open very often.
"I think I would have felt better about leaving if I'd had five or six years here to get some of the programs we started further along. But you can't manage your opportunities. When this came up I had to take it while the opportunity was there."
James said one of his major disappointments in his two years at Maryland was the school's inability to sell out home football games even though the team has been a consistent winner the last seven years. He added that selling football tickets should be a top priority for the new athletic director.
As far as Maryland's fourth-place finish in this year's carmichael Cup, the competition among ACC schools for overall athletic performances each school year, James said "circumstances" created the disappointing finish. He admitted however that the golf, soccer and football teams were "weak" and said the problems of the track team had also been a disappointment.
James' departure comes in the wake of a difficult year for Maryland's athletic program. Struggling with inflation and energy problems and the burden of implementing Title 9 regulations, Maryland's athletic program suffered through one of its least productive years in recent memory.
With the exception of the basketball team, which won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and finished 24-7, and the baseball team, none of Maryland's teams lived up to expectations.
The football team (7-4) missed a bowl bid for the first time in seven years and had a mediocre year attendance-wise. The lacrosse team, annually one of the top two or three teams in the country, is 5-4 and may not make the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. The track team lost the ACC title -- for the first time in 25 years; Coach Frank Costello resigned and star hurdler Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah quit the team.
James, who resigned as Duke athletic director in 1977 under heavy pressure from alumni and the athletic department, succeeded Kehoe after spending a little more than a year as executive director of the Sugar Bowl. There, James was in frequent contact with Big Eight members and apparently left a good impression.
He was asked to interview for the job by William H. Baughn, head of the search committee set up when the search committee set up when Chuck Neinas resigned earlier this year to become executive director of the Collegiate Football Association.
James was one of four candidates interviewed for the job Friday in Kansas City. The other candidates were Cecil (Hootie) Ingram, assistant commissioner of the Southeastern Confeence; Henry Lowe, a Missouri law professor, and Billy M. Jones, a professor at Wichita State University.
Del Brinkman, faculty representative at Kansas and chairman of the selection committee, said he was surprised a successor to Neinas had been chosen so quickly.
Earlier, Ingram had been considered the front-runner for the job.
James was hired at Maryland 20 months ago after efforts to persuade Potts to return had failed and after a selection panel's suggest choice, Moyer Smith, an assistant athletic director at North Carolina, had been turned down by the board of regents.
At that time there was speculation that James had been selected merely as a caretaker until Jerry Claiborne gave up coaching football to become athletic director.
During his tenure, James was as low key as Kehoe was flamboyant. He maintained fair, arm's-length relationships with his two key coaches, Claiborne and basketball man Lefty Driesell.
He and Driesell clashed this year over scheduling: James thought it important that Maryland schedule better nonconference teams to improve home attendance; Driesell felt strongly that his team's ACC schedule provided sufficient tough games each season.
Kehoe's resignation in 1978 came shortly after Potts had left to take the SMU job. Driesell and Claiborne then both tried to convince Potts to return. The same thing may well happen again.
"I don't know what to say, this is really a complete surprise," Potts said, learning of James' departure yesterday. "I'm very happy with my program here. I feel like we're about to really break through.
"But Maryland will always be my school. I love it, it's my alma mater and I have a lot of friends there. I certainly won't apply for the job but I'd have to think about it seriously if they approached me."
Potts and Driesell were close friends when Potts was at Maryland and are still quite close.