Maryland Executive Athletic Director Damon Evans will oversee the day-to-day operations of the athletic department while Anderson is on sabbatical. It remains unclear if Anderson will be back after six months.
Anderson, 62, had not been in his office since the end of September and had not appeared at three consecutive Maryland football games, including last Saturday’s home game against Northwestern. In an email to athletic department officials Monday, Anderson cited his work in monthly open forums with his athletes — which he created in 2016 to address social and political issues — as the reason for his sabbatical.
“This experience has led me to consider where I want to focus my energies at this point in my career,” Anderson said in the email, adding that he will work on “various projects focusing on leadership development, including work with a broad coalition of groups focused on issues of equity, student athlete activism and inclusion in college athletics.”
Anderson, who earned a salary of $587,000 last year, did not respond to further request to comment Monday afternoon.
While it does not appear that Anderson is dealing with personal matters, several reports Saturday cited his ongoing absence as being part of a falling-out with Maryland President Wallace D. Loh over Anderson’s interest in the athletic director vacancy at California earlier this fall.
That apparent friction came just after Anderson and Loh in August had acknowledged the completion of the first phase of the new Cole Field House, which is currently being renovated into an indoor football facility and center for sports medicine.
Anderson and the athletic department still have considerable fundraising to secure after the school announced this summer that the initial $155 million price tag of the project increased by roughly 25 percent to $196 million, with the athletic department responsible for $19 million of that cost.
Anderson, who is from San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State, had also reportedly expressed interest when the athletic director position at Cal became open in 2015. In 2012, Anderson denied a report linking him to the athletic director vacancy at Stanford, where Anderson served as an athletic fundraiser from 1993 to 1995.
Evans has been in his post since 2014. The former Georgia athletic director was fired from that job in July 2010 after he was charged with a DUI. Evans eventually received a second chance when Maryland hired him as an associate athletic director and chief financial officer, and he quickly became one of Anderson’s top lieutenants. Evans leads the day-to-day operations of the department and has been the department’s top representative on all coaching contract negotiations.
“I want to sincerely express my appreciation to President Loh for the opportunity to lead the athletics department and its day-to-day operations at the University of Maryland,” Evans said in a statement. “We have a strong foundation to build upon – we have won the most championships in the Big Ten since joining the conference in 2014 and have an academic profile we are extremely proud of.”
Anderson took over for Debbie Yow in 2010 after serving six years as athletic director at Army. Over that time he has made three coaching hires within revenue programs and oversaw the school’s transition to the Big Ten starting in 2012, a lucrative move that has helped bring new revenue streams to an athletic department that has long been plagued by financial struggle and was forced to drop seven varsity sports in 2012 to counteract a multimillion dollar deficit.
A polarizing figure in College Park, Anderson immediately caused a stir when he fired football coach Ralph Friedgen in December 2010, replacing him two weeks later with Randy Edsall.
Anderson fired Edsall after 4 1/2 years in October 2015 and replaced him with DJ Durkin. Anderson’s other revenue coaching hire, men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon, came after longtime coach Gary Williams retired in 2011.
There has been speculation that the 72-year-old Williams, who holds a fundraising role within the athletic department, might be a possible replacement for Anderson as interim athletic director; a source close to Williams said on Saturday that Williams has no interest in the position. Anderson’s duties will instead fall in the hands of Evans, who did not mention Anderson in his statement but ensured that there would be no drop-off as the department transitions to his leadership.
“During this period, I will continue to work in concert with our institution as we collaborate with our tremendous supporters, donors, cabinet, administrators, coaching staff and student athletes,” Evans said.
More on the Terps: