ORONO — Sometime in the next few weeks, the new Maine athletic director, Karlton Creech, will be faced with his first major decision – whether to retain men’s basketball coach Ted Woodward.
Creech told the Press Herald on Wednesday that he hasn’t yet scheduled his end-of-the-season meeting with Woodward. Creech, who began his duties last month, was in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday to see the Black Bears’ season end with an 80-54 defeat by Stony Brook in the opening round of the America East Conference tournament.
Woodward’s 10th season ended with a 6-23 record. He has two years remaining on his contract, which pays him just over $100,000 annually.
“The decision with every program every year is going to be, where are we headed? What’s the momentum and the direction of the program? And how do we make choices that are going to put us on the right trajectory?” Creech said.
Creech will be in Providence, R.I., this weekend to watch Maine’s Hockey East playoff series. Meetings with Woodward and women’s basketball coach Richard Barron will have to wait until after that, Creech said.
“We need to do a big-picture evaluation. It’s no secret wins and losses are a big part of that, but it’s not the only factor,” Creech said.
Creech praised the men’s basketball team for playing hard despite the mounting losses.
“I’m not a coach so I can’t really tell you Xs and Os necessarily, but I liked the effort that the guys displayed,” Creech said.
His options with Woodward are to buy out his contract, extend it or let him remain as coach while the contract lapses. The latter choice might make it difficult for Woodward to sell himself to recruits, however. This year’s team had no seniors.
Woodward is 98-167 in his 10 seasons. His lone winning season came in 2009-10, when the Black Bears finished 19-10. He last won a conference tournament game in 2005.
Creech acknowledged that the leadership of the men’s basketball program is his first high-profile task at Maine.
“It may not be a decision,” he said. “It may just be, we feel good about what we’re doing and we keep doing it.”
CREECH SAID he has not yet been told if the athletic department will face financial cuts as the university tries to eliminate $12 million from its budget.
The athletic department has a budget of about $15 million, but that comes from direct campus funding as well as external sources such as fundraising and ticket sales.
“Certainly I’m concerned overall for the university. Any time we consider cuts to higher education, it concerns me,” Creech said.
“We’ve got academic programs that are at risk and faculty that are at risk. It’s a university-wide issue and so we’re part of that. I believe in higher education and want us to keep funding it at a level that’s going to keep us all successful, academics and athletics.”
Creech revealed that the university has put in an application for its women’s basketball team to play in the Women’s Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. The WBI is a 16-team tournament whose field will be announced Monday night after the NCAA and NIT brackets are filled out.
The Black Bears are 16-14, meeting the WBI requirement of having a winning record. Creech said he’s willing to pay the $10,000 fee to host a game – figuring the university could recoup that through ticket sales – but that Maine likely would have to open on the road if it’s invited. A boat show is scheduled for the Cross Center in Bangor next week.
The tournament pays travel costs for visiting teams.
“That would be great to be able to say (we’re a) postseason team, (and) get some more wins,” Creech said.
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: