Maryland named Damon Evans its athletic director Monday afternoon, two months after the university started a nationwide search to replace Kevin Anderson. Evans, who has served as acting athletic director for about eight months, will officially take over the role on July 2, the university said in a news release.
Evans has led the athletic department since Anderson went on six-month sabbatical in October. Anderson officially stepped down as Maryland’s athletic director in mid-April. Maryland’s search ended with the familiar Evans, who had been second-in-command to Anderson since 2014.
Evans came to Maryland from the University of Georgia, where in 2004 he became the Southeastern Conference’s first African American athletic director. He resigned in 2010 after he was charged with a DUI. Now he will now have another chance to lead an athletic department at a Power Five conference school.
“It is a great honor to be chosen to lead at the University of Maryland,” said Evans in a statement issued Monday, days after he interviewed against two other finalists.
They were Temple Athletic Director Patrick Kraft and former Tennessee AD John Currie, who each interviewed in College Park at the end of last week. It was believed then that Kraft was the front-runner, and that confidence in Evans had waned following the death of Maryland football player Jordan McNair earlier this month.
But multiple people with knowledge of the hiring process said Evans has had the full support of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh since Anderson resigned. It was Loh who gave a fresh start in college athletics to Evans, who spent four years in the private sector before joining Maryland.
The hiring process was conducted by Turnkey Search and cost the university $120,000, according to a contract obtained by The Post through a public records request.
The university will officially introduce a promoted Evans in a news conference Tuesday.
“Throughout his tenure here, Damon has demonstrated visionary, transparent, compassionate and ethical leadership,” Loh said in a statement issued Monday. “The candidates invited for interviews had impressive credentials and accomplishments. In the end, a senior leadership search is not only about capabilities. It is also about institutional fit and interpersonal trust and chemistry. In Damon, the University of Maryland has the right person at the right time.”
It is also a trying time for Evans to become Maryland’s full-time athletic director. The university is participating in an external review of McNair’s death, which is being conducted by Walters Incorporated, an athletic training consulting firm. The review started in mid-June and could last up to 90 days, according to the university.
McNair was hospitalized following an organized team workout on May 29 and died on June 13. He was 19.
Evans briefed reporters on the situation in a June 14 news conference, but many questions were left unanswered including the cause of McNair’s death. Loh held a call with Maryland’s Board of Regents on Monday and offered the same set of details regarding McNair, according to a person who was on the call.
“I think there was a good amount of skepticism with Damon and the leadership in place after what happened with Jordan McNair,” said one high-level donor who spoke under the condition of anonymity. “But it also does make some sense to hire someone who already has knowledge of the situation and the reviews that are already underway, internally and externally.”
Evans will also face steep tasks in fundraising, which is believed to be one of his biggest strengths. The price tag for Cole Field House, Maryland’s new football practice facility, was raised last summer by 25 percent to $196 million. That left the school on the hook for an additional $19 million, which must be paid by 2022.
Maryland’s membership in the Big Ten, which officially started in 2014, brought in $37 million in revenue last year, and that figure will increase as the university gains a full member’s share within the next three years. But the athletic program just about broke even in the fiscal year 2017. Maryland had an operating budget of $94.8 million and generated just more than $80 million in revenue, plus an additional $14.5 million from student fees and direct institutional subsidies, according to documents obtained by The Post.
And then there are questions surrounding Maryland’s two biggest programs, football and men’s basketball, heading into the 2018-19 academic year. The football team, led by Coach D.J. Durkin, is 10-15 in the last two years. The men’s basketball team failed to qualify for the postseason last spring and will soon enter the most critical season of Coach Mark Turgeon’s tenure.
In February, Evans and Loh launched an internal review of the program after it was pulled into the FBI’s investigation of college basketball. That review has centered on former player Diamond Stone and allegations that he received more than $14,000 from an agent. It is still unclear when the internal review might conclude.
At the start of Maryland’s search for its next athletic director, it was apparent the hire would face a host of pressing challenges. It is now up to Evans to guide Maryland through them, and into the future.
“I look forward to many successes ahead in our Big Ten era,” Evans said in Monday’s statement. “I’m guided by the principle that we learn from our wins and losses, and I am eager to lead an athletics department that ultimately achieves greatness together.”
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