The most recent flare up occurred when Williams declined a bid to the NIT only to be called out of the press room to take a phone call from NIT representatives who told him they had an agreement with the athletic department that Maryland would host a number of NIT games at Comcast center. Williams then returned to the press room and told the media that Maryland would be playing in the NIT. Williams probably relented to pressure from the NCAA, who now owns the NIT and is trying to rebrand the event, to participate and give the NIT a marquee program to sell to ESPN.
In the Baltimore Sun representatives from the athletic department, Debbie Yow and Larry Leckonby (who is referred to as the senior associate athletics director, whatever that is) both disputed Williams' claim that he was unaware of the commitment to the NIT.
"Departmental policy is that no such bid is submitted without the concurrence of the head coach," Yow said. "That's with any sport."
While Williams maintained he was never asked before Sunday night if he wanted to play in the NIT, Leckonby said yesterday that Maryland director of basketball operations Troy Wainwright was in every NIT planning meeting.
"He actively participated," Leckonby said. "I can't tell you what their relationship [he and Williams] or communication might be."
So on the one hand we have Gary Williams saying that there was "No way" he would accept a bid to the NIT before finding out his team's NCAA fate and the athletic department claiming that a member of the basketball staff had been involved in the negotiations. The position of the athletic department might be more convincing if they didn't admit through their statements that they never talked directly to Williams about the NIT invite. Notice in Yow's carefully worded statement that she never said she had confirmed with Williams himself that he wanted to accept the bid before committing the team to play and host games.What we're left with is either a pathetic attempt at blame shifting by some clown in the athletic department or that Gary Williams is lying. I'll put my trust in Williams over someone who is willing to give quotes in the paper blaming what amounts to a middle manager for this fiasco.
The thinly veiled hostility, or brazen hostility in this case, that the athletic department continues to show for the basketball program is hard to fathom. There is clearly a personality conflict at work here with Yow and Williams getting along about as well as cats and dogs. The amazing part of this latest development is that the athletic department was so willing to conduct a public relations campaign to undermine Williams in the local media. They readily and enthusiastically gave quotes to the Baltimore Sun. In my opinion it made them look unprofessional and incompetent. What other athletic department would not directly consult the head coach to determine if they would play in a meaningless postseason tournament?
Leckonby said in the paper, "Bottom line is, at 8 o'clock, they didn't think they'd accept the invitation, which is fair and valid. You don't have to accept. You don't have to play."
But from all the talk about how these games could make the athletic department $80,000 each and that the basketball program funds almost every other non-revenue athletic program it certainly doesn't seem like it was a decision for the players or coach of the basketball team. In the end that is what matters, money. The athletic department treats the basketball program as a cash cow while focusing huge amounts of energy promoting and cultivating the football program that usually barely breaks even and requires tons of extra resources.
The two programs can coexist and even flourish together, but not when the atmosphere is so thoroughly poisoned by politics in the athletic department. If Yow thinks she is going to get $25 a ticket from me plus $10 for parking she is sorely mistaken. I'm not going to reward this ridiculous and childish stunt by the athletic department with my money.