Now that the University of Maine has named Paul Ferguson from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville as its president, the focus turns to the appointment of a new athletic director.
It is a critical hiring and he or she won’t be named until the fall.
There is a list of criteria that must be met.
The new athletic director must be a charismatic and well-organized workaholic with a hands-on approach to dealing with the coaching staffs.
The AD must be a top-notch fundraiser and an up-front person who won’t be afraid to make difficult decisions.
The AD must be fiscally responsible and have a healthy relationship with President Ferguson and they must be on the same page as far as their expectations for the athletic program.
Before scrutinizing the coaches, the AD must evaluate whether the coaches have the resources available to compete with the other schools in America East, the Colonial Athletic Association and Hockey East.
Are the facilities comparable? Is the recruiting budget on a par with their league opponents?
Maine is at a distinct geographic disadvantage when it comes to recruiting.
But the men’s hockey team has made 17 NCAA tournament appearances, 11 Frozen Fours and has won two NCAA titles; the baseball team has been to seven College World Series; the women’s basketball team has been to seven NCAA Tournaments and the football team has been to the postseason six times.
So the geographic disadvantage can be overcome. It just hasn’t been lately.
In fact, the football team’s 2008 appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) represents the school’s last NCAA tourney appearance.
The men’s hockey team hasn’t made the NCAA tourney in four years after nine straight NCAA appearances and the women’s basketball team has lost four consecutive play-in games and is coming off a program-worst 4-25 season. Also, the men’s basketball team has lost six straight America East playoff games and finished this season with eight losses in its last nine games and the baseball team hasn’t been to the NCAA tourney since 2006.
The new AD will have to oversee the eventual building of a basketball-only facility to replace the Memorial Gym and supply the men’s and women’s basketball teams with their own facility and identity.
They have been practicing in Memorial Gym and playing their games at the Alfond Arena.
The new AD will have to devise affordable ways to put people in the seats.
UMass Lowell occasionally books local rock or country bands to play at games.
They play before games or between periods and will often put on concerts after the game.
One would think local bands might play for a reasonable rate in order to get exposure.
The new AD needs to instill a sense of team among the coaches and to touch base with them on a consistent basis.
It is going to be a daunting task.
But University of Maine fans are loyal and will be supportive if they’re given a product worthy of their support.
As loyal as they are, even Maine fans get frustrated if they feel their teams and coaches are underachieving.
And there is certainly a prevalent sense of frustration these days.
Successful athletic programs are vital to universities. They create a source of pride and provide valuable entertainment.