At his introductory press conference Tuesday, the University of Maryland’s new athletic director Damon Evans laid out his vision for a department and school facing tumult and uncertainty.
Evans was named to the position Monday, after acting as athletic director since October, when Kevin Anderson began a six-month sabbatical from the position. Anderson resigned in April following that sabbatical.
“I am going to work hard to put us at the forefront. I want people to know who we are and what Maryland is about,” Evans said in front of a crowded Terrapin Ballroom at the Hotel at the University of Maryland. “We are going to take over this conference, and we’re going to do some things that other people might say, ‘How in the heck did they do that?'”
University President Wallace Loh expressed his faith in Evans, who came to this university in December 2014 and has held positions including executive director and chief financial officer.
“I am very confident that he will be an outstanding athletic director for the University of Maryland,” university President Wallace Loh said. “He has those qualities of leadership — he’s visionary, he’s seasoned, he’s strategic — and he has those personal qualities of integrity and compassion.”
Engineering school dean Darryll Pines and field hockey head coach Missy Meharg, both of whom were members of the search committee, also spoke at the conference. When Meharg took the podium, 12 other head coaches stood behind her on stage.
“Dr. Loh, on behalf of these amazing coaches and myself, I want to thank you for naming Damon Evans,” Meharg said.
Evans, who will officially take over the position July 2, enters at a crucial time for the school.
The department is currently conducting an external review of the death of football player Jordan McNair following a team workout in May and opened an internal investigation in February into the men’s basketball program after a report that former men’s basketball player Diamond Stone received more than $14,000 from a sports agency while at Maryland.
Pines said the committee didn’t consider waiting until the end of the McNair investigation to make or announce the decision. The committee stopped interviews on the day of McNair’s death and his funeral, but Pines said they couldn’t wait the 90-day span of the investigation to give the athletics department a leader.
Loh said the announcement was more somber than usual out of respect and mourning for McNair.
“We lost a member of our family,” Evans said. “Let us not forget Jordan McNair because he will forever be a part of who we are.”
Leading Maryland will be Evans’ second stint as an athletic director. He was the head of Georgia’s athletic department from 2004-10, until he resigned after being arrested on a DUI charge. Loh called Evans’ journey “a very typical human story of fall and redemption.”
“What happened at Georgia, I’m fully culpable for. There’s no one to blame but me,” Evans said. “I opened up with the committee. I just opened up and I told them that I made a mistake some eight years ago. My fault, but that’s not who I am. It’s just an apparition of who I am. But the thing is, it made me a better person.”
Evans said his biggest challenge at Maryland will be managing finances but said there is “no ceiling” for the department’s fundraising as it prioritizes athletic facilities, academics and the community as a whole.
“Facilities are going to be significant for us as we move this program forward,” Evans said. “We all know that it’s an arms race in intercollegiate athletics.”
Evans praised Maryland for not only having a strong athletics program but also valuing academics.
“The fact that I get to work on a campus that truly understands what it means to integrate academics and athletics is truly, truly exceptional,” he said. “When you take an institution that has the academic prowess that we have, and we combine it with the athletic prowess … amazing things can happen.”