In a stunning turn of events less than a week after her formal introduction as Penn’s next Athletic Director, M. Grace Calhoun submitted her letter of resignation to President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price early Sunday morning.
A variety of reasons for Calhoun’s sudden departure have emerged since Steve Bilsky’s replacement first informed the University of her desire to leave the position before officially assuming it on July 1.
Unnamed sources initially claimed that Calhoun chose not to take the position after it was discovered that the former Loyola Chicago AD lied on her resume.
Whether or not Calhoun actually did graduate from Brown remains unclear, however. Still, it would not have been the first time somebody couldn’t handle the rigorous course load posed by Rhode Island’s most formidable academic institution.
Yet early Monday morning, Calhoun brought joy to all 23 Loyola sports fans: She’s returning to the school that has captured her heart.
“I’ve had the distinct privilege of serving a variety of schools somewhat well throughout my career,” Calhoun said. “But no institution is as special for me as Loyola. The programs there have done everything for me, succeeded at the level that I demanded of them.
“I truly feel like I’m returning to my roots at Loyola and I couldn’t be more honored by the opportunity.”
Though Gutmann and Price refuse to acknowledge it, Calhoun also realized a distinct set of challenges posed by the AD position at Penn.
Citing her favorite Coldplay song, Calhoun made it clear that “[she]never thought it would be easy, but never thought it would be so haaarrrrddddd.” So she’s going back to the start.
Calhoun emphasized that she did envision several challenges at Penn, including whether or not to find a new head coach for the men’s basketball team, how to stop baseball and softball games from getting rained out and how to install air conditioners at the Palestra.
But after informing the audience at her introductory press conference that she intended to spend a considerable amount of time with each Penn team, Calhoun came to realize that notion would be a challenge.
“I really would’ve loved to get to know all the teams, players and coaches Penn has to offer,” Calhoun said. “But I didn’t know how hard that would be.
“Seriously, have you ever tried to find Meiklejohn Stadium? It’d be a miracle to find time to make that hike and get to know the damn baseball team.”
It appears that Calhoun also ran into some trouble with one of the Red and Blue’s most promising head coaches during her six days on the job. News outlets reported over the weekend that Calhoun attempted to fire Penn women’s basketball head coach Mike McLaughlin.
Calhoun acknowledged those claims in an interview late Sunday.
“There’s only room for so many M’s in this town,” Calhoun said. “I ultimately felt that Mike and I couldn’t coexist.
“You’re next [Penn swimming coach] Mike Schnur.”
It appears that Calhoun’s not only planned to fire McLaughlin, but also sought to replace him behind the bench with current freshman center Sydney Stipanovich. Whether or not Stipanovich would have Bill Russell-ed her way through the 2014-15 season is unclear.
Ultimately, Calhoun decided to search for a player from a non-revenue sport to hire as a McLaughlin’s replacement, in the hopes that a non-unionized athlete would be cheaper.
Though Calhoun’s plans seem outrageous and her time as AD was short, her resignation brings with it considerable sadness from the University’s administration.
“For days now, M. Grace Calhoun has lived and loved Penn Athletics, and the University has been incomparably the better for it,” Gutmann said in a press release. “The continuing success of so many of our teams and our student-athlete alumni during her time speaks volumes to what M. has achieved in her days at Penn.”
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