ORONO — University of Maine President Robert Kennedy is in the process of selecting an interim director of athletics.
The position opened up last week when Blake James announced he is leaving UMaine after seven years to become senior associate athletic director for external affairs at the University of Miami.
UMaine spokesman Joe Carr explained Tuesday that Kennedy plans in the next few weeks to choose someone to direct the Black Bear athletics department for the next several months.
“Somebody will be in place before Blake leaves on Sept. 7,” Carr said.
Kennedy has solicited the input of numerous people on campus, including members of the athletic department. It is a process that is expected to continue for at least a few more days.
“He’s spent the past several days talking with individuals and meeting with groups within the athletic department, including a meeting with the coaches, to get suggestions and opinions about what he should be looking for in an interim athletic director,” Carr said.
“He’s continuing that process today and probably over the next few days as he works toward a decision,” he added.
With the 2010-11 school year scheduled to begin Sept. 7 and Kennedy having begun his final year as UMaine’s president, appointing an interim athletic director appears to be the prudent choice.
“The search for a new president and the search for a new athletic director will be sort of synched up with the idea being that we’ll try to have athletic director finalists identified at about the same time a successor president is named so that that person can choose from among finalists that will be identified from a national search that will start sometime during the fall semester, probably toward the latter part of the [fall] semester,” Carr said.
The University of Maine System and its board of trustees is responsible for choosing Kennedy’s successor. The search is scheduled to begin in September.
The search for a permanent athletic director likely won’t be initiated until November or December.
Carr said UMaine expects to have identified its next president prior to when Kennedy relinquishes the position in June 2011. That means an athletic director likely would be appointed soon thereafter.
In the meantime, James will strive to have everything in place for his temporary successor prior to his departure.
He said there is plenty to do in the next three weeks.
“There’s a lot of loose ends I’d like to sew up before I leave,” James said Tuesday. “I’ll continue to communicate with President Kennedy on issues that we have and take care of whatever needs to be immediately addressed.”
One item James conceded will come up for discussion with Kennedy is a possible contract extension for women’s basketball head coach Cindy Blodgett.
Blodgett has begun the fourth year of her original four-year contract signed in 1997. James has supported Blodgett as the first-time head coach has attempted to get a struggling program back on track.
UMaine has posted a combined 20-69 record during her first three seasons. However, James in the past has said she has the program headed in the right direction.
He and Kennedy could agree on extension or might defer such a decision until after the 2010-11 season.
“Any time we renew the contract, offer the contract, extend the contract of a coach, I talk with President Kennedy on my thoughts and get his feedback. We collectively make a decision.”
James said he is confident this will be a successful year for UMaine athletics, starting with the football season this fall.
He admitted some regret at leaving UMaine with the field house renovation project of more than $12 million still on the drawing board.
“One of the disappointing aspects for me in leaving is not to see the end result of this project,” James said. “I do think it will really position Maine athletics to be successful into the foreseeable future.”