Time to wrap up Thursday's discussion with interim Maryland athletic director Randy Eaton. In the closing portion of our conversation, the veteran athletic administrator discusses the anxiety natural with not knowing who a new boss will be, the unlikelihood of the school making a football coaching change if a full-time athletic director is not in place, his belief Ralph Friedgen can take the football program to a bowl game this season and just how far behind Maryland's season ticket sales are lagging behind department estimates.
PS: Is there any anxiety on your part given that this place is kind of in flux at this point? Or is this an opportunity? Obviously, some of this is doing what's best for the school, but there's also a professional aspect to this to.
RE: I would be lying if I said there wasn't anxiety. It hits me late at night when I finally have a chance to start going brain-dead right before bed. But the only anxiety, and all of us have this when we get a new boss, is 'Am I going to have a job in January?
For all of us, it's a little bit different. When you've been in the business, the question isn't 'Am I going to have a job?' The question is 'Am I going to have a job at Maryland?' If I was fired Monday, I would be employed by Friday. I know enough people in the business that I would have a job. It might not necessarily be doing what I want to do or where I want to do it, but I would be employed. It's not like I'm worried about going on the breadline.
But there's such an upside at this institution. I think all of us have always felt that way. I want to remain a part of it. But administratively, and coaches go through this to, you get an athletic director. For the coaches, I think it's what are their expectations for individual sports. For administrators, a lot of times it's 'Are they going to bring my replacement with them?' They're not going to bring in a new men's basketball coach, but they might bring a new CFO. At which point they're getting on board and that first week I'm getting called in the office [and hearing] 'I need to bring my guy in and you're not in my plans.'
PS: I would think depending on how long this takes with the campus president, I'd have to think you could be here [in charge] throughout most if not all of football season at this point.
RE: In the interim role, I'm thinking the middle of October to the first of November before the new AD gets on site. I think that's a best-case scenario that we do get a new president named by the end of August, which is quite feasible, I think. Then the AD search committee has a list of candidates to send them by the middle of September. Then by the end of September, they make their choice. Now you're in that two-to-four-week window. How long does it take them to get here? So middle to end of October.
PS: And that's the best-case scenario?
PS: What happens if that drags out longer, particularly if there's some sort of decision to be made with football?
RE: That's probably worst-case scenario. Let's say I'm sitting here as interim athletic director and it's the end of November and we've had another 2-10, because that's where you're going and what you want to know.
PS: Yeah. I would even say 4-8 or 5-7.
RE: I think first of all, we're going to be very hard-pressed, with an interim AD, regardless of what happens, I think the university as a whole would be very hard-pressed to make any changes. The reason being two things.
You make a change and go out and hire the coach. That coach is going to come here because of their relationship with one person and one person only: The president. Now, if you do that, who as an AD is going to come in and take that job knowing the football coach is going to go over their head on pretty much every matter?
The other thing is, if you were to make a change, I think you're going to have a limited pool of people that's going to be interested in this because they don't know who the next athletic director is. If I'm still the interim AD when we get to the end of football season, I do not foresee how we can make any changes that would not be detrimental to football program, the athletic department and the university at-large. I just don't know how you can do that. That's why it's critical that we get the AD position filled.
I don't think they're going to have anything to worry about. Maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid. Ralph has convinced me, he and his staff, that people are just taking us for granted. Again, [I'm] not talking 10-2. But we looked at the schedule and we went through the schedule. He has convinced [me] that 7-5 is very, very doable. Puts us in a decent bowl and quiets everything down. Now it's a whole different discussion. Now what if Ralph wants to extend his contract? What if he decides he wants to keep coaching? Whole different set of discussions.
PS: You've been an interim AD before. What's surprised you this time around?
RE: I'll be honest with you. Absolutely nothing. No. Nothing.
Having been this close to Debbie these past two years, everything would stop on my desk before it went to her anyway, so there weren't a whole lot of issues I wasn't aware of. There were times I would say no and get overruled by the boss. That's OK, she was the boss. I think all of the senior staff were gatekeepers with all of our individual coaches and try to get rectified before they got to the boss's office. That's not what she needed to be dealing with.
Really, nothing has come across my desk or been brought to my attention that's been a great surprise.
PS: We've talked a lot about football. I want to get at least some basketball mentioned in here. I think you and Gary Williams have a pretty good relationship. How's that gone the past couple months?
RE: In July, those guys were gone and they're just now getting back. I interact with them as often as I can. I think I was down there yesterday. I was down there Tuesday, down there Monday. Pretty much every day, I talk to him or Ralph. Again, it's 'Do you need me to do anything for you, today? How can I help?' They've got enough other things going on, or if it's just a phone call or an e-mail or if it's something more involved, what can I do to help them succeed?
With both of those guys, we don't agree on everything, but we work it out. I ended up spending more time with Ralph [recently] because he's getting ready to start his season. Same thing, I get into September and early October, I'll be in Gary's office every day. He's going to have those last-minute things that he needs help with or he needs to get done and he's starting to focus on practices again. It's cyclical. It's that way with all of our coaches in all of our sports. It's not anything peculiar to those two guys.
Everything's been going good. It really has. People have just been amazingly supportive: 'How can we help? What can we do?' Honestly, short-term the biggest hurdle facing us are finances. No question. It hasn't changed a bit. If the masses asked me what they could do for the athletic department, [I'd say] help us with football. Help us with football tickets because we are significantly behind right now. We budgeted for a shortfall.
PS: What did you budget for?
RE: We didn't budget for this big of a shortfall, and that's my fault. There were two of us who walked into Debbie's office when we were putting the budget together and I said we should budget for a 20 percent drop. And they both said 'You're nuts, it's not going to fall that far. We should budget for 10 [percent].' I went '20, we're 2-10. We've been coming down and now we hit 2-10. We've been sliding down the slope and we're at the cliff. ' 'No, no, no.' So we budgeted for 10, so I'm still 10 percent short of budget. We're working on that. We've already kind of addressed that, but we know we are significant dollars short in season ticket sales.
PS: One last question: Do you have a side bet with [Navy athletic director] Chet Gladchuk (Eaton's former boss at Houston) for the Sept. 6 game in Baltimore?
RE: (smiles) That would be against NCAA rules.