The University of Maine’s revolving door spun Blake James onto the road to Miami this week. His five-year tenure wasn’t the answer to an athletic department that’s in search of an identity.

Next! Step up, please.

An interim AD will be named soon, maybe within days. It should be Jack Cosgrove. He can be head football coach and athletic director in the short term. He’ll work the extra hours. More importantly his coaching staff will, too.

Maine doesn’t need a manager type. That was James, who if he had a vision or goals or solutions to specific challenges, he did a poor job of sharing them with the greater community.

Maine doesn’t need an enforcer or a cleaner. That was Patrick Nero and before him, Suzanne Tyler. Nero put some teeth into codes of conduct for students and athletes and Tyler helped Maine navigate its way through NCAA compliance issues.

Both also got caught in the revolving door.

Maine athletics needs a leader. A bridge builder who won’t shrug and overlook the rot. Someone who’s not afraid to turn to someone else and say, coach me through this. Cosgrove doesn’t use that phrase often, but he’s not so proud or insecure that he won’t ask for help.

Cosgrove gets people excited. I’ve seen him work a room of ladies wanting to learn the difference between a guard and a tight end and a visiting high school team seeking encouragement and direction.

When the Alfond family visited the campus recently to learn more about the project to renovate Memorial Gym, locker rooms and training facilities, they asked to speak to Cosgrove. Why was he supporting this? What benefits would it have for his football team?

His answer? The Memorial Gym renovations benefit campus life. Everyone benefits. Shawn Walsh believed the same thing. Cosgrove and Walsh had different styles, but shared visions.

Cosgrove sees the skirmishing over smaller pieces of the budget pie. Fights over influence. Turf battles. Once upon a time there was a sense of common purpose.

Cosgrove knows his own sport is on the endangered list. At the recent Colonial Athletic Association media day, he fielded more questions about the future of football at Maine.

Northeastern and Hofstra dropped the sport in the past year. Boston University and Vermont before that.

James supported the continued existence of football. What he didn’t do was initiate a campus-wide discussion or forum on the future of athletics at Maine. What is the price for a Division I program and what will this state pay? Who will be the next generation of benefactors?

Here is where Cosgrove’s detractors step up and say he would be in over his head. His supporters say he’s done his share and more in bringing money to campus in the form of gifts.

Cosgrove has been mum since James resigned. He considered the job when Nero resigned and James was named interim AD. He pulled back, saying he couldn’t politic against his acting boss.

Cosgrove has been mum this week. You don’t call a press conference announcing your candidacy. Miami’s timing in hiring James was fortuitious for James’ critics but awful for Cosgrove. He’s deep into the beginning of Maine’s football preseason.

He sought counsel. Maybe he should wait for the search committee, stand on his character and be one of the finalists presented to the new president. Robert Kennedy moves on next spring.

Cosgrove was told he had no choice. The campaign to fund the Memorial Gym renovation — between $12 million and $15 million — is in its final stage. Individual coaches and teams face pivotal seasons. One of them needs to be in charge.

Funny, but on the website, there is a large photo of James and the news of his resignation. On the right is a smaller photo of Cosgrove. Click on it and you hear his answers from the conference media day. The words with the photo: Black Bear vision.

Cosgrove disagreed with James’ style and was disappointed in his lack of leadership. Some saw that as undermining James.

The issue was this:

Cosgrove invested some 20 years of his life in Maine. James walked into the revolving door.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]


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