In case you missed the recent developments, Maryland's athletic department is in about $83 million in debt. We can sit here and debate how they got here all day (*cough* Debbie Yow *cough*), but the most important thing the University can do now is figure out how to get out of this hole.
Luckily for them, the solution may be more simple than it seems.
The athletic department was rolling in dough in the early 2000's and built up a huge amount of reserve money that they have since spent. What was going on around that time that could have helped contribute to that cash flow? The football team had just hired Ralph Friedgen, and he won 10 games in each of his first three seasons, including an ACC Championship in 2001. The basketball team was about to enjoy it's best time, including back-to-back Final Four appearances and their first NCAA championship in 2002. I'm sure some of the other sports enjoyed some success, but to be honest, that doesn't really matter in terms of this financial conversation.
In the years since then, the basketball and football teams have seemed to underwhelm nearly every year. That disappointment is reflected in their attendance. It's no problem to get a ticket on game day at Byrd Stadium. That effect certainly wasn't as pronounced when they were winning 10 games a year. The student section isn't full at every men's basketball, which is unacceptable. It's understandable, considering they didn't even make the NIT last year, but unacceptable considering how good this program could be.
So how to we get back to those glory days of about a decade ago? I think the right foundation has been put in place by this new regime. Kevin Anderson might not be the best public speaker in the world, but he hired two coaches who have shown in their career that they are winners and that they do it the right way.
Last season was a good one for the Maryland football team, and there is no reason to believe that new coach Randy Edsall can't keep that up immediately. If he is able to recruit the area like I believe he will, his success will be sustained. Winning football games is what sells tickets, and nothing brings in as much revenue to the athletic department than a sold-out Byrd Stadium.
Mark Turgeon has already generated a considerable amount of buzz around the Maryland basketball team in the few months that he has been here. They had been a sleeping giant in the recruiting world, but Turgeon seems to have made some serious inroads there, especially locally. If you look at the recruits he is going after, the majority of them say that Maryland is recruiting them the hardest. That's a great start. In basketball specifically, winning follows elite talent. Turgeon seems to be doing his best to bring it in.
The new coaches won't be able to turn this whole thing around on day one, or even in year one. But they do have all the tools to make it happen. The athletic department recognizes that these two teams need to succeed, and they are willing to spend to make it happen. New Maryland assistant coach and recruiting wizard Dalonte Hill is reportedly being paid $300,000, more than some entire staffs under old coach Gary Williams. That's commitment to winning in the face adversity, and that's what it will take to bring them out of this hole. It might get worse before it gets better, but it is going to get better.
It was the actions of an entire athletic department that brought on this amount of debt. No matter how much fun fans have bashing Yow, it wasn't exclusively her fault. In the end, it will be up to these two new coaches to bring them out of it.
As if following two alumni wasn't enough pressure.