UMaine President Paul Ferguson and Athletic Director Steve Abbott have announced that Abbott will be leaving the position of Athletic Director this fall after three years of service. Abbott will be returning to serve as Chief of Staff to United States Sen. Susan Collins, a position he formerly held from 1997–2009.
“I have greatly enjoyed working with Steve to further the success of Black Bear Athletics. We have worked diligently together to support our student athletes, enhance our athletic facilities and manage a fully compliant Division I Program,” said President Ferguson. “I look forward to continuing our working relationship in his role with Senator Collins.”
During Abbott’s tenure the university completed a $5.5 million renovation of the Alfond Arena, constructed a walkway to connect the first-year student dorms to the Arena and other playing fields, constructed the $500,000 Paul J. Mitchell Batting Pavilion, and began a $15 million renovation to the Memorial Gym and Field House, the first phase of which is expected to be completed this December. The university will also play men’s and women’s basketball in the new $65 million Cross Insurance Center.
Abbott expressed a deep appreciation for his experience at UMaine and for the working relationship that he has had with University of Maine President Paul Ferguson. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with President Ferguson and his Cabinet,” said Abbott. “The President has been a great partner for me and all of us in the athletics department. His leadership and his vision for the university as articulated in the Blue Sky Plan, makes me very optimistic for UMaine’s future.”
“The University of Maine is a special place to me and my family,” said Abbott. “Given our family history and my lifelong affinity for Black Bear athletics, I am especially pleased to have been a part of the Athletics Department these past three years. I have great respect for the staff and coaches, and I continue to be impressed by the commitment and the work ethic of our student athletes. They are a real credit to this institution.”
“I have been a Black Bear fan since before I was a ball boy for the football team four decades ago and I look forward to returning to the stands as a fan of all our teams as soon as my employment here ends,” Abbott said.
Abbott highlighted the significance of the relationship that the university has formed with New Balance, which provided a $5 million naming gift for the Field House renovation. The gift was the largest corporate gift in UMaine history.
“This is a terrific relationship with a company that has almost 1,000 employees in Maine. The Davis family is incredibly generous and has built an organization that shares our values. The UMaine-New Balance relationship will continue to grow in the future and will greatly benefit both entities,” said Abbott.
Ferguson commented that one of the most significant contributions that Abbott made to UMaine Athletics was his work with other athletic directors, their staffs, and the conference staffs for the three conferences in which the University of Maine competes. Abbott agreed, “The athletic directors in our conferences are a group of people who are committed to the student-athletes, have great perspective on the role of athletics at academic institutions, and recognize both the value and the joy of athletic competition.”
During Abbott’s tenure the Colonial Athletic Association added Stony Brook University and the University at Albany, as well as retaining the University of Rhode Island, establishing geographic balance in the conference and placing all four football-playing schools in the same conference.
At the same time Hockey East added Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut as members, further solidifying its position as the strongest league in college hockey.
Abbott also served on the search committee for the America East Conference Commissioner and was chair of the Athletics Directors Council when the America East added UMass Lowell to the league, a traditional rival whose location is the second closest to the Orono campus in America East.
In reflecting on Abbott’s departure, America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said that, “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Steve. He’s served as chair of the AD Council over the past year, providing steady leadership during a critical time for the conference. He quickly gained the respect of his peers and I know they join me in wishing him the very best in the future.”
President Ferguson has begun the process for a national search to replace Abbott.