Lock­sley far from lock at Mary­land

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ro­man Stubbs and Emily Giambalvo The Wash­ing­ton Post

Al­abama of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor would bring bag­gage

COL­LEGE PARK, Md. — As Mary­land searches for a new head foot­ball coach, Mike Lock­sley has gen­er­ated sup­port from many stake­hold­ers in Col­lege Park. The of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Al­abama, who pre­vi­ously spent two stints as an as­sis­tant with the Ter­rap­ins, is al­ready con­sid­ered to be a fi­nal­ist for the job, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion, though he will not in­ter­view un­til af­ter the SEC cham­pi­onship game Satur­day.

There is mount­ing pres­sure on Mary­land ath­letic di­rec­tor Da­mon Evans to hire Lock­sley, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with di­rect knowl­edge of the process, and on mul­ti­ple lev­els it would be con­sid­ered a home-run hire. A Wash­ing­ton na­tive who is beloved in lo­cal coach­ing cir­cles with deep re­cruit­ing ties to the area, Lock­sley, 48, is also con­sid­ered an in­no­va­tor who has helped Al­abama's of­fense reach his­toric heights this season.

But Lock­sley's can­di­dacy also stirs ques­tions about the school's search in the wake of one of the most tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods in the univer­sity's his­tory. Mary­land will have to de­cide whether it will try to sta­bi­lize the pro­gram un­der Lock­sley — whose first head­coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at New Mex­ico was mired in a string of ugly off-the-field in­ci­dents and ended dis­as­trously when he was fired af­ter just four games into his third season in 2011— or whether it will hire an­other coach with less bag­gage.

“I think Mike is unique, in that I think he can be a unit­ing force for play­ers, fans and donors,” said one-high level booster, who spoke on a con­di­tion of anonymity. “Peo­ple will rally to help him.”

Lock­sley was last con­sid­ered for Mary­land's head coach­ing job in 2015 af­ter he served as the team's in­terim head coach for the fi­nal six games fol­low­ing the mid­sea­son fir­ing of Randy Ed­sall. Lock­sley fin­ished his short ten­ure 1-5, bring­ing his ca­reer head­coach­ing record to 3-31, but he was con­sid­ered for the per­ma­nent job af­ter the season con­cluded. Mary­land opted to hire DJ Durkin in­stead. Durkin of­fered Lock­sley a position on his staff, but Lock­sley turned down the of­fer and joined Al­abama.

Ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion, the process cre­ated fric­tion be­tween Lock­sley and Evans, who was the ath­letic depart­ment's sec­ond-in-com­mand at the time. Three years later, with the pro­gram in sham­bles fol­low­ing the June death of of­fen­sive line­man Jor­dan McNair and the Oct. 31 fir­ing of Durkin, Lock­sley has an­other chance at the job.

Mary­land is ex­pected to con­duct fi­nal­ist in­ter­views Sun­day and Mon­day in Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the process. Michi­gan pass game co­or­di­na­tor Pep Hamil­ton and Mary­land's 2018 in­terim coach, Matt Canada, will also in­ter­view as fi­nal­ists.

Though high-level boost­ers and for­mer re­cruits at Mary­land and Al­abama have en­dorsed Lock­sley's can­di­dacy, the Col­lege Park ad­min­is­tra­tion will have to weigh the com­pli­cated op­tics of his po­ten­tial hir­ing. In 2009 he in­her­ited a down­trod­den pro­gram at New Mex­ico, which had been slapped with three years' pro­ba­tion in 2008 for NCAA vi­o­la­tions. That chal­lenge was com­pounded by mul­ti­ple off-the-field in­ci­dents af­ter Lock­sley's ar­rival.

In May 2009, be­fore he coached a game at New Mex­ico, an ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant, Sylvia Lopez, filed an age and sex dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaint against Lock­sley with the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion. Lopez's at­tor- ney told the Al­bu­querque Jour­nal that Lock­sley had told the as­sis­tant that he wanted younger women in the role to help with re­cruit­ing. The claim was later with­drawn. Lopez's at­tor­ney, Whit­ney Warner, could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment this week.

In Septem­ber 2009, dur­ing a coaches meet­ing fol­low­ing New Mex­ico's loss to Air Force, Lock­sley was ac­cused of punch­ing as­sis­tant coach J.B. Ger­ald in the face. “Lock­sley be­came up­set about (Ger­ald's) re­sponse to ques­tions con­cern­ing a play in the game and be­gan shout­ing at him and other coaches,” ac­cord­ing to a law­suit later filed by Ger­ald, which also in­cluded al­le­ga­tions of a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment.

Lock­sley then at­tacked Ger­ald, “pin­ning him to his chair and chok­ing him,” the law­suit said. Other coaches in the room pulled Lock­sley and Ger­ald apart, but while Ger­ald was re­strained, Lock­sley broke free and struck him in the face sev­eral times, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

In re­sponse to those al­le­ga­tions, the univer­sity said in the law­suit that Ger­ald was tex­ting while Lock­sley asked him a ques­tion mul­ti­ple times. The univer­sity sus­pended Lock­sley for 10 days with­out pay.

The two par­ties reached a set­tle­ment, and Ger­ald, now the di­rec­tor of high school re­la­tions at Syra­cuse Univer­sity, re­ceived $25,000. Ger­ald did not re­spond to re­quest for com­ment. Al­abama did not make Lock­sley avail­able to com­ment Fri­day.

Lock­sley also had a run-in with a stu­dent re­porter while at New Mex­ico. In July 2010, a for­mer sports ed­i­tor at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico's stu­dent pa­per, Ryan To­mari, said he was con­fronted by Lock­sley at an Al­bu­querque bar af­ter To­mari had writ­ten a column crit­i­cal of the foot­ball pro­gram. Lock­sley al­legedly yelled pro­fan­i­ties at To­mari and a friend about the lo­cal me­dia. Lock­sley did not com­ment on the in­ci­dent later that season.

To­mari con­firmed the in­ci­dent in a tele­phone in­ter­view ear­lier this week and said of Lock­sley's ten­ure, “I thought it was off the rails from the get-go.”

At the end of Lock­sley's stint at New Mex­ico, a 19-year-old friend of Lock­sley's son was charged with sus­pi­cion of driv­ing while in­tox­i­cated in a car that was reg­is­tered to Lock­sley's son and wife. Hours later, the team suf­fered an ugly loss to lower-di­vi­sion Sam Houston State to fall to 0-4. Lock­sley was fired the next morn­ing af­ter com­pil­ing a 2-26 record in less than three sea­sons.

“I was on the fast track,” Lock­sley told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 2015, “and the next thing I know, it got de­railed.”

Mary­land hired Lock­sley the fol­low­ing season to be the team's of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor. Al­though he won just one game dur­ing his in­terim head coach­ing stint at Mary­land in 2015, he was praised by his play­ers that season for galvanizing the team af­ter Ed­sall was fired.

Lock­sley be­came an an­a­lyst un­der Nick Sa­ban at Al­abama in 2016. He coached re­ceivers and was the co-of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor last season. Lock­sley be­gan call­ing plays this year with quar­ter­back Tua Tago­v­ailoa, a Heis­man Tro­phy front-run­ner, lead­ing the of­fense. Al­abama, the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion, en­tered Satur­day's game with a 12-0 record and an of­fense that av­er­aged 49.0 points per game (sec­ond na­tion­ally), 538.0 yards per game (fourth) and 8.04 yards per play (sec­ond).

“If Sa­ban wants Mike Lock­sley around, that means he's do­ing some good things, the right things,” said Craig Jef­fries, who coached un­der Lock­sley at New Mex­ico and now coaches at Oxon Hill High School in Prince Ge­orge's County, Md. “While Mike is around, Mike is learn­ing and growing and de­vel­op­ing new things the way to be suc­cess­ful to the stan­dard that Al­abama has.”

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