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Richmond AD Resigns After Support Fades

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Among some of the University of Richmond's most influential donors, confidence in athletics director Keith Gill eroded to the point that there was speculation he wouldn't return next school year. UR announced Gill's resignation Wednesday, after The Times-Dispatch reported that Gill would not return.

Gill was named athletics director on Nov. 2, 2012, by Edward L. Ayers, then the school president. Gill, who began working at UR on Dec. 11, 2012, succeeded Jim Miller, who supervised Spiders athletics during 2000-2012. In a letter to athletics department staffers, Gill said his resignation is effective June 30.

In the letter to his UR colleagues, Gill said a medical problem suffered by his partner in Washington, D.C., Tiffany Speaks, helped convince him that this was the time to step away from his job at UR.

In a Wednesday phone conversation, Gill chose not to comment. Gill, who's from Orlando, Fla., said in an April 15 interview with The Times-Dispatch that he was professionally happy at UR and had no plans to separate from Richmond, a school he said fits his values.

In a school release, he said, "I want to thank the Spider family for 4½ great years. I'm proud of all that we've accomplished, the impact we have had on Richmond athletics, and the life and academic experiences of our student-athletes. Leaving the university at this point in our progress is bittersweet, but right now my primary focus has to be with my family."

Ronald A. Crutcher, UR's president, said deputy athletics director David Walsh will serve as interim athletics director until UR finds a new AD.

"Keith Gill has led our division of athletics with distinction and positioned the University of Richmond for future athletic success," Crutcher said in a school release.

Support for Gill faded with developments in the last couple of years. Most notable was the unusual move in December of 2016 of football coach Danny Rocco, who left UR for Delaware, a CAA rival of the Spiders.

Rocco, the first coach to lead UR to three consecutive FCS postseason bids, in an interview with The Times-Dispatch questioned Richmond's "vision" for football. He later said the changing Division I football landscape can make it very challenging for a relatively small private school, such as UR, to remain competitive at FCS' highest level.

UR coaches and many of the school's strongest supporters were disappointed by Gill's lack of backing action in the admissions process. An academically demanding private school that belongs to very competitive leagues - the Atlantic 10 in basketball and the CAA in football - benefits from an AD who can work as a successful advocate in occasional admissions matters that involve prospects experienced coaches are convinced can fulfill UR's academic obligations.

Gill has not been that figure, said the sources, nor did he form relationships that would allow him to work through some situations that called into question his leadership.

Malcolm Bernard, a 6-foot-6 basketball player who graduated from Florida A&M, said in March of 2016 that he was transferring to UR for his final season of eligibility. Months later, Bernard was denied admission for academic reasons, he told The Times-Dispatch. He became a starting guard last season at Xavier.

Running back A.J. Hines, from Wilson, N.C., signed a national letter of intent with Richmond in February of 2016 and was included on UR's list of incoming freshmen. According to several published reports quoting Hines, he learned he didn't qualify academically for admission to UR. He enrolled at Duquense. Hines was named the FCS' top freshman, winning the STATS Jerry Rice Award, after rushing for 1,291 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Dukes last season.

There were also concerns about Gill's lack of regular interaction with heavily invested UR supporters, and even athletic department staff members.

Richmond may be interested, according to the sources, in transitioning to a basketball-centered AD, given that the Spiders' flagship sport is men's basketball, the one with the most revenue-producing potential.

Gill, a 1994 Duke graduate and former Blue Devils running back, worked as an NCAA membership services representative (1995-99), an assistant AD at Vanderbilt (1999-2000), the NCAA's director of membership services (2000-04), Oklahoma's senior associate athletics director (2004-07) and American University's director of athletics and recreation (2007-12) before coming to UR.

The Spiders haven't advanced to the NCAA men's basketball tournament since 2011, but they are consistent winners and have drawn well at the renovated and enlivened Robins Center. UR's football program qualified for the FCS playoffs each of the past three years. The men's lacrosse program launched in 2014 and has been successful in the Atlantic Sun and Southern conferences. The Spiders were ranked throughout this season, when they played in their fourth consecutive league championship game.

Gill drew criticism when running quarterback David Broadus was suspended for undisclosed reasons as a junior, came back to play last season as a senior, and then was again suspended for undisclosed reasons. Broadus' unavailability and an injury to starter Kyle Lauletta led to UR using Kevin Johnson as quarterback in the playoffs. Three postseason games cost Johnson a season of eligibility. He was redshirting.

UR offered no explanation when five baseball players, including two of the team's best, began this season suspended. The Times-Dispatch reported they were involved in online gambling related to fantasy football.

On March 3, Gill was appointed to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee, effective Sept. 1.

The committee chooses teams that qualify for the NCAA tournament as at-large candidates and formulates the brackets, among other things. Positions on the committee are determined through a nomination process that involves the league to which the candidate's school belongs and the region of the school and league.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6233@RTDjohnoconnor

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May 11, 2017
 
 
 

 

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