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Former USM leaders urge Loh to reconsider retirement while slamming regents

William "Brit" Kirwan (File)

William “Brit” Kirwan (File)

Two former leaders of the University System of Maryland urged University of Maryland President Wallace Loh to reconsider his decision to retire next June while also criticizing the system’s Board of Regents for interfering with Loh’s duties.

William “Brit” Kirwan, the system’s former chancellor and a former University of Maryland president, and James Shea, a former chair of the Board of Regents, said Loh acted properly in firing football coach D.J. Durkin Wednesday despite pressure from the board to keep him.

“Dr. Loh has taken this action despite an apparent ultimatum from the Board of Regents that he must retain Coach Durkin or else be terminated as president immediately,” they said in a joint statement. “In effect, the Board of Regents was taking the unprecedented action of determining who would be the university’s football coach.”

Kirwan and Shea joined a chorus of criticism of the Board of Regents for interfering with the system’s flagship university. The Board of Regents only has the authority to hire or fire the university’s president.

Loh wanted to fire Durkin, but news reports suggest Loh was told he would be fired if he did so.

“To the best of our knowledge, in the 30-year history of the University System, no board of regents has ever made decisions about campus personnel, except those involving the president,” Kirwan and Shea said. “The Board of Regents should not be in the business of hiring or firing a football coach, or any faculty or staff. This would set an untenable precedent for the university system and would seriously harm Maryland’s reputation in the national higher education community. No respected higher education system would permit it.”

They also urged Loh to reconsider his retirement, announced at the same Tuesday press conference where the board’s chair, James Brady, said Durkin and athletic director Damon Evans would keep their jobs. In a letter to the campus earlier Wednesday, Loh indicated that he would still retire next year, saying he would devote his final months to reforming the athletic department.

“We also join the many calls for Dr. Loh to reconsider his decision to retire this June,” Kirwan and Shea wrote. “We believe Dr. Loh’s leadership is critical for the university at this challenging time and we call upon the Board of Regents to publicly affirm its support for Dr. Loh continuing leadership of the state’s flagship university.”

Both former leaders remain active in the state. Kirwan chairs the commission looking at reforms to Maryland’s public education funding formula. Shea ran for the Democratic nomination for governor this year.

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