Hours after the University of Maryland denied several media reports Saturday that Athletic Director Kevin Anderson had been fired, Anderson himself was nowhere to be found at the school’s home football game against Northwestern.
The embattled administrator did not visit his usual seat on the second row of press row, nor was he there to greet Terrapins Coach DJ Durkin after his postgame remarks in the auditorium of Gossett Team House, something Anderson traditionally does after each game, whether at home or on the road. It was the third consecutive game Anderson has missed.
That absence, which the school did not provide an explanation for after the Terrapins lost, 37-21, to the Wildcats in College Park, was at the heart of a bizarre day for the athletic department.
After several reports early Saturday afternoon claimed that Anderson had been fired or placed on administrative leave after a falling-out with Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, the school sent out a 13-word response on Twitter: “Kevin Anderson is UMD Athletic Director. Media reports to the contrary are false.”
University Statement: Kevin Anderson is UMD Athletic Director. Media reports to the contrary are false.
— UMD Right Now (@UMDRightNow) October 14, 2017
School officials have not addressed Anderson’s ongoing absence. A person with knowledge of the situation said Anderson had not been in his office on campus since late last month.
The seventh-year athletic director also did not travel to Maryland football’s games at Minnesota and Ohio State over the past three weeks and was not present at a football alumni dinner Friday evening.
None of Maryland’s top athletic brass were visible as they typically are in the press box of Saturday’s game against Northwestern, either, including Executive Athletic Director Damon Evans, who has been one of Anderson’s chief lieutenants since 2014. Evans arrived instead of Anderson at Durkin’s postgame news conference and greeted the second-year coach after a few minutes of somber remarks. Evans did not comment on Anderson.
While it does not appear Anderson’s absence is due to a personal matter, the confusion over his status played out through a number of contradictory reports.
A Maryland spokesman did not confirm or deny whether Anderson had been placed on administrative leave earlier this month, after ESPN reported that development had been confirmed by a university spokesman. That report later reversed course and stated that a spokesman had said Anderson is not on leave and has not been fired after the school had issued its statement.
Anderson texted a screenshot of the school’s announcement to The Washington Post in response to a request for comment on his status. He did not respond to requests for further comment.
MASNsports.com reported earlier Saturday that Anderson has been fired and was removed from his post by Loh after Anderson had expressed interest in the vacant athletic director position at California earlier this fall.
That came just after Anderson and Loh unveiled, in August, the first completed phase of the new Cole Field House, which is being renovated into an indoor football facility and center for sports medicine.
Loh said in August that the project had raised about $60 million of its $90 million fundraising goal, although the school announced over the summer that the initial $155 million price tag for the project had increased by roughly 25 percent to $196 million, with the athletic department responsible for $19 million of that cost.
Anderson, who grew up in San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State, also reportedly expressed interest when that same position at Cal was open in 2015. Anderson was an assistant athletic director at Cal from 1997 to 2002.
Anderson took over at Maryland in 2010 after serving in the same role for six years at Army and oversaw Maryland’s transition to the Big Ten that began in 2012. He initially signed a five-year deal in 2010 worth more than $401,000 in annual compensation; that deal is designed to be renewed each year on Sept. 30 unless terminated.
Former Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams was the subject of speculation Saturday that he might be a popular choice as Anderson’s replacement, but a person close to Williams, 72, said he has no interest in the job.
Anderson’s tenure has often been polarizing. His first major move came in late 2010, when he fired Ralph Friedgen as football coach and replaced him two weeks later with Randy Edsall. Anderson fired Edsall after 4 1/2 seasons in October 2015 and subsequently pegged Durkin to fill the role.
Anderson made a splash by hiring Mark Turgeon as men’s basketball coach in 2011 but also endured turbulence while managing a money-strapped athletic department during the early stages of his tenure. He cut seven nonrevenue sports in July 2012 in an effort to cut into a multimillion dollar deficit within the department.
Durkin said Saturday that Anderson’s absence did not have an effect on his team’s loss. He was the only member of the athletic department to comment on the issue.