Maryland athletic director Damon Evans was the first to step onto the podium last week at Matt Swope’s introductory press conference, highlighting the accomplishments that justified choosing Swope as the ninth head coach in Maryland baseball history.
The ceremony only happened because Swope’s predecessor Rob Vaughn left for Alabama following the 2023 season, becoming the third-straight Terps baseball coach to depart for the same job elsewhere.
The trend is another reminder that Maryland, despite its recent on-field success, remains a tier below the nation’s top programs and seems unable or unwilling to match the salaries those schools offer.
Evans discussed those issues in that press conference and outlined his vision for the program’s future.
Evans vehemently disagreed with the notion that Maryland refuses to invest in baseball.
“Maryland athletics will invest in baseball and will continue to invest in baseball,” Evans said. “I hear a lot of people [saying] that Maryland athletics is not willing to pay Rob Vaughn. That wasn’t the case.”
Vaughn’s contract at Maryland paid him an annual base salary of $300,000. Brad Bohannon, who Vaughn is replacing at Alabama, was the lowest-paid coach in the SEC and made $500,000 last season. John Szefc, Vaughn’s predecessor at Maryland, made $600,000 this year at Virginia Tech. Erik Bakich, the Terps coach before Szefc, will make over $1 million annually at Clemson over a six-year deal.
Evans has instead focused on enhancing the program’s facilities. He said he hopes construction on a planned indoor hitting facility will begin this fall. The current one was built more than a decade ago and was intended to be temporary.
But outside of that anticipated project and some other minor upgrades in recent years, Bob Smith Stadium and the surrounding area look very similar to how they did when the park was built nearly 70 years ago. Evans has renderings for “cosmetic” changes to the stadium but offered no timeline for when those projects could begin.
“I’ll be the first one to tell you, specifically baseball, we don’t have the best facilities,” Evans said. “We need to make this better.”
The Terps have proved they can win Big Ten titles and make the NCAA tournament despite a lack of high-end facilities. The athletic department is slowly catching up with the rest of college baseball but still falls behind the sport’s powerhouses.
Rob Vaughn’s departure
Alabama moved fast to hire Vaughn. The Crimson Tide fired Bohannon on May 4. Eight days later, athletic director Greg Byrne came to College Park to watch Vaughn and the Terps in person.
As Maryland was clinching a Big Ten regular season championship and cruising through the conference tournament, Evans met with athletic department staff and urged them to be prepared to lose Vaughn. Just hours after those pleas, Byrne called Evans.
“I want to talk to your coach,” Byrne told Evans.
Evans feared Vaughn would bolt for another job after the 2022 season, one in which Maryland won the most games in program history and hosted the first-ever College Park Regional.
Baylor was interested in Vaughn, Evans said, but the Terps kept their coach with a five-year contract extension.
The extension wasn’t enough. Three SEC head coaching positions opened this offseason, opportunities Evans couldn’t compete with.
“When you have someone like Rob Vaughn … you have to be prepared to know that people are going to try to come poach your coaches,” Evans said. “You hate to lose coaches, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a testament to the program.”
Evans identified Swope as Maryland’s next head coach when the Terps nearly lost Vaughn last year. He stuck to that decision when Vaughn actually left.
“Succession planning is big,” Evans said. “… [Swope] was the next guy in line.”
Swope, who called the role his “dream job,” aims to build on the winning culture he believes the program has created over the last decade. Evans admires Swope’s dedication to the Terps and is confident in his ability to lead them.
“Pride and commitment lead to culture,” the athletic director said. “When you create the right culture, culture is what leads to outcomes.”