The University of Maine athletic department is expected to remain in the hands of interim director of athletics Steve Abbott for at least several more months.
UMaine spokesman Joe Carr on Tuesday said the search for a new athletic director will be overseen by incoming president Paul Ferguson, who was approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees on March 14.
When Abbott was introduced in August, the thought was UMaine probably would initiate the AD search once the process for finding a new president was well under way. That would have meant Ferguson would have a “short list” of candidates to consider.
However, a couple of key factors have altered that timeline and the search will not be conducted while UMaine President Robert Kennedy is in office.
“President Kennedy has determined that it would be more appropriate to leave the choice of a permanent athletic director to his successor,” Carr said.
The other dynamic is Abbott’s performance thus far as the interim AD.
“President Kennedy continues to be very happy with Steve’s work leading UMaine’s athletic department,” Carr said.
Ferguson will begin his tenure as UMaine president on July 1. Since that falls during the summer, when the campus is relatively quiet, formulating a search committee would not be practical.
“A summer search would not work because it would be difficult to make sure that all the constituent groups — including students and faculty members — would be able to participate fully,” Carr explained.
Abbott is expected to have the reins until a permanent successor is found via a nationwide search, which likely will begin in September. He was hired in August after the departure of Blake James, who took a position at the University of Miami.
Abbott, an Orono native, initially said he took the job not intending to pursue it on a full-time basis. However, he has confided to friends that he is enjoying his experience at UMaine and will consider applying for the position when the time comes.
Abbott did not respond Tuesday to requests for an interview to discuss the situation.
He is the son of former UMaine football coach and instructor Walter Abbott, who served two terms as the school’s interim AD.
Steve Abbott took the UMaine job after an unsuccessful run for governor of Maine in 2010. Previously, he spent 12 years as the chief of staff for Sen. Susan Collins, managing her office in Washington, D.C., and those in Maine.
The 1985 Harvard graduate captained the Crimson football team as a senior, then went on to graduate from the University of Maine School of Law in 1991. He practiced law in Portland before joining Collins’ staff.