ORONO, Maine — It has been only nine days since the University of Maine dismissed men’s basketball head coach Ted Woodward by buying out the final two-plus years of his contract.
Even so, the suggested application deadline for those who wish to become his successor has already come and gone.
Wednesday marked the cutoff for applications for the UMaine position and there has been a high level of interest in the job.
“We had over 100 applicants, which was great; really diverse backgrounds,” said UMaine athletics director Karlton Creech, who is overseeing the search. “I think we’ll have a really good pool and have a good group to make the selection from.”
Creech explained that approximately 40 applicants were quickly eliminated from the list of candidates through an initial screening because they failed to meet the advertised minimum qualifications, which included a bachelor’s degree and “substantial, successful coaching and recruiting experience at the college level.”
Creech has appointed a search committee that includes a faculty member, a UMaine head coach, a former men’s basketball player, a UMaine human resources representative and several athletics department staff members.
Athletics spokeswoman Laura Reed said the university is not ready to announce the committee members, pending approval of UMaine’s HR office.
However, Creech said the committee gathered Tuesday for its first meeting. Members of the group already are going through the applications.
“Each committee member goes online through the HR software and reviews and evaluates each candidate,” Creech said.
One of the dynamics that should help UMaine attract high-quality candidates is the fact not many Division I men’s positions are up for grabs this spring.
There have been 40 changes thus far and there are presently six vacancies, with Missouri, Southern Mississippi, Marshall, Coppin State and Florida A&M joining UMaine.
“There has not been a lot of turnover this year, which I think is an advantage for us,” Creech said. “That’s certainly a good thing. The other thing is, there’s only so many of these jobs in the world (349), so when they become available, people are interested.”
He said there is not a firm deadline in place for having a new head coach on board and that UMaine doesn’t want to sacrifice quality by rushing to judgment.
“We are trying to move quickly, just because the men’s basketball signing period ends May 21,” Creech said. “I’d love to have somebody on board at least a week in front of that deadline so that if they wanted to go out and find some players, they would have that opportunity during the signing period.”
Creech said he reached out to some of his friends and contacts in college athletics to let them know the UMaine men’s basketball job is available and to encourage strong potential candidates to apply.
“I think that has produced quite a number of the candidates that we got,” he said.
Once committee members have culled the list of applicants to a more manageable number, they will begin conducting interviews. Creech said most of those will consist of Skype or other video conferencing sessions during which the entire committee is present and can see, hear and interact with the candidates.
“You really need to be able to talk to the person and ask questions and see how they respond,” Creech said.
“I think the online and Skype technology is a great way to have that personal interaction without spending a lot of time and energy and money with flying people here,” he added.
Eventually, the committee will select an undetermined number of finalists, who will be invited to Orono for on-campus interviews.
Creech said UMaine will offer a salary similar to the $100,000 per year that was being earned by Woodward.
“We’re not making any major changes there,” he said.