To Geiger, job looks familiar

April 30, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Andy Geiger came to the University of Maryland as athletic director in the fall of 1990, the basketball team was in turmoil and fans were calling for the firing of football coach Joe Krivak.

It is a remarkably similar set of circumstances Geiger inherits at Ohio State, where, at a lively campus news conference yesterday, he was introduced as the school's new athletic director.

And, just as he was when he arrived in College Park, Geiger was brimming with enthusiasm and confidence as he embarked on what will be his fourth Division I athletic director's position in the past 22 years.

"I just found the scope of this program and the tradition of this program very compelling," said Geiger. "This is one of the first four or five programs out of one's mouth when you talk about great leadership positions in intercollegiate athletics."

Said Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee: "I think we have just hired the very best athletic director in the United States."

It was an interesting process, one that began earlier this month with Geiger's turning down a request by the school's search committee to come to a hotel at a Chicago airport for an interview. It was then that Gee became involved, first calling Geiger and then University of Maryland president William E. Kirwan for permission to talk with the 55-year-old administrator.

"I was a reluctant candidate," said Geiger, who interviewed for the job a little more than two weeks ago and then, at Gee's request, visited the campus with his wife, Eleanor, again on Tuesday. "I have great love for the University of Maryland and Brit Kirwan. I was in great conflict over leaving."

Geiger, who will start his new job May 16, denied speculation that his departure from Maryland was precipitated by problems within the athletic department but did say that Ohio State's $28 million budget was a factor in his accepting the position.

"I can't say one negative thing about the University of Maryland," said Geiger. "Gary [Williams] has got it turned around. Mark [Duffner] is going to get it turned around. The football stadium is going to be finished in 1995. This one was for me. I made the decision for my career and my family."

Kirwan, speaking by telephone from his office in College Park, said: "I can only assume he saw an opportunity there he had to pursue. Up until the search started at Ohio State, I had no reason to believe he wasn't satisfied with the way things were going. I was surprised and disappointed. I wish him well."

Geiger will receive the same length of contract that every athletic director in school history has gotten -- a one-year letter of appointment -- and Gee said that Geiger would be paid an annual salary of $130,000.

Other details of the contract have to be worked out, but Gee made it clear that Ohio State would match Geiger's salary at Maryland. Geiger was in the fourth year of a five-year deal that paid $125,000 base salary, a $15,000 annuity and the use of two automobiles.

"That puts Andy in the middle of the Big Ten in terms of salary," said Gee.

Geiger, who as recently as a month ago reiterated that Maryland would be his last stop as an athletic director, wouldn't go quite that far yesterday. But he said he hopes that it will be "the cap on my career in intercollegiate athletics."

Not that it will be an easy task. Geiger is well aware of the problems and challenges he faces in his new job, just as he was when he left Stanford for Maryland.

After admitting 17 violations in recruiting one player, Damon Flint, now at Cincinnati, the Ohio State basketball team is expecting some type of sanctions from the NCAA. While the sanctions aren't expected to be as severe as those Maryland received in 1990, they could be a major setback for the program.

After being the only team in the country to be a No. 1 seed in the 1991 and 1992 NCAA tournaments, Ohio State has been 15-13 and 13-15 the past two years. Also, three Buckeyes players have been charged with driving under the influence in the past five weeks.

"Obviously, there have been some problems, but I think the university has addressed them," said Geiger. "I think we will move through this with alacrity and we will come out of it OK."

There is also another potential public-relations nightmare in women's basketball. One week after signing a five-year contract last January, coach Nancy Dartch was hit with a $150,000 lawsuit by a former player charging that Dartch tried to coerce her into "an alternative lifestyle."

And there is the continuing problem with the overzealous Ohio State football fans, who forced Earle Bruce to resign six years ago and have been on John Cooper since he arrived. Even last year, when the Buckeyes finished 10-1-1 and won their first bowl game under Cooper, fans were calling for his dismissal.

"The intensity here has given me a little bit of a pause," said Geiger. "That's part of the challenge. The expectations are very high. It's another chance for me to test myself, to see how I do at this level."

Geiger scored some points with the alumni, many of whom wanted to see two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin promoted from assistant athletic director to the No. 1 job. Geiger announced at yesterday's news conference that he was promoting Griffin to associate athletic director.

But it was obvious that Geiger knew all about the job he was undertaking when someone asked him what his biggest challenge would be.

"Beating Michigan," he said.

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