Maryland Athletic Director Perkins Must Avoid Conflict of Interest Hints
You’re a booster.
You don’t like the basketball coach at the university you boost.
You think he’s bad for the program, and you want to give him a little boost out the door.
You’re not just any booster, of course. You know the athletic director. Not only do you know the athletic director and maybe have the odd dinner date together, but you and a few like-minded boosters also are paying the athletic director’s second mortgage on his luxury home.
You not only have clout. You’ve got checkbook power. You’ve got money -- the athletic director’s personal, wallet-sized money -- in your hands.
You tell him, “Get rid of the coach.”
The athletic director stalls, saying there’s not sufficient cause.
You tell him, find a cause. You tell him, find a cause or find somebody else to pay off that second mortgage.
Could this happen?
Did this happen?
Did University of Maryland Athletic Director Lew Perkins, whose second mortgage, worth $90,000, on a house worth $397,000, is paid for by boosters, bow to this kind of pressure when he fired Bob Wade?
I don’t think so. But I’m sure that he should never have put himself in a position where the question could even be asked.
They’re asking now, and Perkins, to my thinking, does not have many good answers.
Let’s consider what he does have. He’s got this expensive house that he probably couldn’t afford on his own. He takes out a $300,000 mortgage, but has to come up with $97,000 more. The Terrapin Club, an athletic department support group, agrees to float him the loan at market rates. Some boosters, who have yet to be identified, agree to pay the tab for Perkins to the Terrapin Club.
The boosters’ contribution may or may not be an NCAA violation. The NCAA is evaluating the situation now.
It may or may not be a violation of the ethics code for state employees, of which Perkins is one. The state Ethics Committee is studying the situation. The committee is, as it happens, studying new information, because, on the original form, Perkins forgot to report this particular arrangement. He also may have forgotten to inform the university. According to Perkins, former Chancellor John Slaughter was fully aware of the arrangement; but Slaughter, in an interview, said he had no knowledge of it.
William Kirwan, who now runs the university, has had no comment, as we have come to expect. He has said he is waiting for the Ethics Committee and for the NCAA, and he also has invited the attorney general’s office to voice an opinion. The United Nations will probably be called in next. Kirwan doesn’t seem to have any opinions of his own, though it should be clear that Perkins cannot be involved in such a deal, whether or not it meets the letter of thelaw.
Who are these people paying Perkins’ way? Shouldn’t we at least have their names?
What are their motives?
How did they come to offer this particular package?
What strings, if any, were attached?
Is it any wonder that some people are shouting conspiracy when this arrangement remains shrouded in secrecy?
And, yet, I’m sure Bob Wade lost his job on his own merits. No conspiracy, or pressure, was required. I also am fairly sure that Perkins, despite the charges, was not responsible for leaks of Wade’s NCAA violations to the media. And it is, of course, his responsibility to report any such violations to the NCAA itself.
What is absolutely clear is that Wade’s defenders want Perkins’ head and think this will get it for them.
It should not come to that. The problem is easily enough resolved.
When Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer was recently accused of possible impropriety in regard to a land deal, he divested immediately, understanding that his integrity meant more than any piece of real estate. Perkins’ integrity is important, too. What he should do is stand up and say that though he never knowingly broke a rule, he has come to understand he entered into an agreement that could be interpreted as a conflict of interest. Therefore, he would terminate the arrangement.
Please understand that such perks, whatever you may think of them, are routine in the world of intercollegiate athletics. Coaches and athletic directors are often given houses, and, in fact, Perkins’ contract allows for him to live in one such house rent-free. And if university officials believe boosters should help Perkins buy a house, that is easily, and ethically, accomplished. Simply arrange a deal so that the boosters pay money to the university, and the university pays the money for the loan. In other words, guarantee that the arrangement cannot devolve into a conflict of interest.
Perkins has said he would abide by any or all of the investigative bodies studying the problem. That is not enough. He should admit his mistake and rectify it. That is not bowing to pressure, but rather, simply doing the right thing.