Maryland will interview three finalists this week for its athletic director opening — John Currie, Patrick Kraft and Damon Evans — a source confirmed to The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Kraft, the athletic director at Temple University, is believed to be the front-runner going into the interviews, according to one person with knowledge of the hiring process. Currie was the athletic director at the University of Tennessee before he was fired in December. Evans is Maryland’s acting athletic director and has been in that role since Kevin Anderson went on a six-month sabbatical in October.
Anderson, who has since become the interim athletic director at Cal State Northridge, officially stepped down as Maryland’s athletic director in mid-April. That spurred a nationwide search for his successor, which could further materialize across the next 48 hours.
The next Maryland athletic director inherits a handful of pressing tasks, including internal and external reviews of the death of football player Jordan McNair. McNair was hospitalized following an organized team workout May 29 and died June 13 at 19 years old.
The cause of McNair’s death has not been disclosed, and Maryland confirmed Tuesday that it has contracted Walters Incorporated, an athletic training consulting firm, to conduct an external review that will “evaluate relevant policies and protocols” and begin by the end of this week.
Multiple people with knowledge of the athletic director hiring process believe the McNair situation has lowered confidence in Evans’s ability to lead the athletic department.
Maryland whittled the search to three candidates with the help of Turnkey, a search firm that specializes in college athletics. Two Turnkey consultants — including Gene DeFilippo, the firm’s managing director who has served as the athletic director at Boston College, Villanova and South Carolina Upstate — teamed with Maryland’s internal eight-person search committee across the past few months.
The university will pay $120,000 for Turnkey’s services, according to the contract obtained by The Post through a public records request. Maryland should have paid $100,000 of the fee by now, according to the contract, with the final $20,000 installment due by Saturday. The fee could grow for a handful of reasons, including an extension of services or if Maryland decides to hire more than one candidate suggested by Turnkey within the next year. The initial agreement between Maryland and Turnkey, signed April 24, runs for 120 days. That gives Maryland until Aug. 22 to settle on a hire without extending the contract, though it looks like the university may not need that much time.
Multiple people believe that Evans has had the support of University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh since the beginning of the hiring process. Loh gave Evans a second chance in college athletics in 2014, four years after he resigned as athletic director at Georgia after being charged with a DUI. Evans was in the private sector for several years after that incident before Anderson lobbied to Loh to make Evans his top lieutenant right as the school moved from the ACC to the Big Ten.
Kraft became Temple’s athletic director in May 2015 after serving as its deputy athletic director. Annual donations have increased by 75 percent since his promotion, according to Kraft’s bio page on the Temple athletic website, and Anderson’s replacement will face a big fundraising challenge with the Cole Field House project. The price tag for Maryland’s new football practice facility was raised last summer by 25 percent to $196 million, leaving the school on the hook for $19 million, which must be paid by 2022.
Currie was Tennessee’s athletic director for only 10 months before he was fired amid a turbulent search for the school’s next football coach. He was the athletic director at Kansas State from 2009 to 2017 before taking over at Tennessee in April 2017.
At the onset of this process, it was widely believed that Maryland was considering Jeff Hathaway, the outgoing Hofstra athletic director who previously held the same position at the University of Connecticut. Hathaway, a Maryland graduate, was a preferred candidate for Maryland boosters who hoped the next athletic director would have ties to the university.
But Hathaway’s absence from the final list of candidates is not a surprise to multiple people with knowledge of his relationship with Loh. According to three sources, Loh offered Hathaway the Maryland athletic director job in 2010. Hathaway decided to stay at Connecticut, which strained his relationship with Loh, and later moved to Hofstra following criticism surrounding low academic rates within the U-Conn. men’s basketball program that led to NCAA probation.
Loh hired Anderson instead, then Anderson’s departure after eight years kick-started a search that could be nearing its conclusion.
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