By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
Wallace Loh, former dean at the University of Washington Law School and Seattle University, has been the president of the University of Maryland for roughly two and a half years. In that time, he has spent much of his effort on the school’s athletics program, which saw the departure of its longtime athletic director, Debbie Yow, football coach Ralph Friedgen, and basketball coach Gary Williams during Loh’s tenure. In addition to the staff turnaround, Loh was also faced with a surprised program budget deficit, leading to the elimination of seven of the university’s sports teams.
This month, focus was brought to the university’s athletics program again, as it has decided to move away from the Atlantic Coast Conference, the sports conference it has been a member of for over half a century, to join the Big Ten, which boasts a more financially lucrative television deal.
The move, which breaks up long rivalries with Duke and the University of North Carolina, took many by surprise as many of the negotiations took place behind closed doors.
Loh kept the news close to his chest until it was announced, initially only informing his cabinet, his superior, University of Maryland System Chancellor William Kirwan, and high level donors.
Though the move was initially viewed with surprise and shock, none of the university’s most visible supporters spoke out against it.
“I think, with all of us, the first reaction was, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’ ” Kirwan said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. “But the more you think about it, the more sense it makes.”
Frank Kelley, a longtime regent of the university was taken aback, but ultimately agreed with the move.
“The money was just so attractive,” Kelley said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. “Anybody looking at those numbers would have said that we didn’t have a choice here.”
Loh has been complimented on his strong leadership on the issue, reinforcing his reputation that was built on diversifying the University of Washington Law School and curbing under-aged drinking at the University of Iowa.
Loh, who was born in Shanghai and immigrated to Peru with his diplomat father, came to the United States on his own after high school, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College, a master’s from Cornell, a doctorate from the University of Michigan, and a law degree from Yale.
He eventually continued on to serve as the dean of the University of Washington Law School, the dean of Seattle University, the vice provost at the University of Iowa, and the first Asian American president of the University of Maryland.
He was recently named one of the 10 most popular college presidents in the United States by Glassdoor Ratings, sharing the top spot with three other presidents who scored a perfect “100” from their employees.
Sports programs have personal importance to Loh, whose daughter plays soccer at the Division 3 Californian Occidental College. He reportedly sat and cried with the athletes whose teams he was forced to cut last year.
But, despite the cuts, the university’s athletics program still rested on a weak foundation, which has been borrowing from the university’s reserve emergency fund for several years.
Though the numbers behind the deal have not been publicly released, Loh told the Baltimore Sun that “the revenues from the Big Ten would be so large that I could go to the Board of Regents and say, ‘This truly guarantees the future of Maryland athletics for years to come.’ This is not hyperbole.” (end)
Charles Lam can be reached at email@example.com.