Former Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow caused quite a stir Tuesday when she claimed in a news conference that Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams has been trying to "sabotage" the coaching search at North Carolina State, where she is the athletic director.
The news conference, held in Raleigh, N.C., to announce the hiring of Mark Gottfried as the Wolfpack's coach, took an unexpected turn when Yow was asked by a reporter whether she thought she had a national reputation for being difficult to work with.
Yow, who feuded with Williams in public and in private during her tenure at Maryland, called out Williams by name in her answer.
"I don't have a reputation across all of men's basketball of being difficult to work with," Yow said. "I have a reputation of not getting along with Gary Williams, who has tried to sabotage the search. Come on. We all know that, OK? So whatever. It's not a reputation. It's Gary Williams out there doing his thing. Whatever."
Yow went on to say that "someone will be writing about [the situation] nationally." Several coaches reportedly didn't express interest when N.C. State contacted them about its vacancy, which was created when Sidney Lowe resigned in March after five years on the job. Gottfried coached at Alabama for 11 seasons before resigning in 2009.
Maryland was informed of Yow's comments, and within minutes, Williams responded with a statement.
"I haven't talked to anyone — coach or athletic director — connected to the NC State search," the statement read. "I don't have any interest in the NC State search, since I'm coaching at Maryland and working hard to run our program. Anyone who says I've had contact with a prospective coach or athletic director regarding this search isn't being truthful."
Near the end of the news conference, Yow was asked whether she had considered taking legal action against Williams. She indicated that she might.
"I'll give that some thought," Yow said. "I really haven't thought about that."
Yow's comments came as quite the surprise — she briefly became a national trending topic on Twitter — although perhaps they shouldn't have. While both parties did their best to downplay it during the 16 years they spent working together in College Park, Williams' and Yow's icy relationship has been characterized by ill feelings, according to many current and former Maryland officials and supporters.
Each usually seemed inclined to keep details of the relationship private. But raw feelings surfaced in 2009 when Williams and the athletic department offered conflicting accounts of the circumstances under which two Maryland recruits — Gus Gilchrist and Tyree Evans — ended up at other schools. "It wasn't my fault that they're not here. That was somebody else's call," Williams told reporters.
The next day, Kathleen Worthington, then a senior associate athletic director under Yow, called media members to "clarify" Williams' statements.
Williams, feeling undercut, told reporters that evening: "Kathy Worthington doesn't speak for me, she has never won a national championship, she has never done anything. She's an associate AD. This is just giving you guys stuff to make me look bad."
The divisions were well-known enough that Maryland insiders talked about "camps" of supporters lined up behind Williams, Yow and former football coach Ralph Friedgen, who also had a trying relationship with Yow.
"There are Gary people and there are Ralph people and they lash out at the athletic director, and it's wrong," state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, told The Sun in a December 2009 interview. "I'm in all three camps. I like all three very much."
Worthington recently submitted her resignation to the university, according to the athletic department.
Reached Tuesday night by The Sun, Williams declined to comment further.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker contributed to this article.