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McDermott Defends Aurich Hiring, Acknowledges Chance of Donor Backlash

Erin McDermott, the Director of Harvard's Athletics, speaks to The Crimson in an interview on Thursday. McDermott acknowledged that some alumni may be pulling donor support for Harvard football.
Erin McDermott, the Director of Harvard's Athletics, speaks to The Crimson in an interview on Thursday. McDermott acknowledged that some alumni may be pulling donor support for Harvard football. By Emily T. Schwartz
By Jo B. Lemann and Tyler J.H. Ory, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Athletic Director Erin McDermott acknowledged the possibility of some alumni pulling financial support for Harvard’s football program over the hiring of new Head Coach Andrew Aurich in an interview Thursday.

“I think that could happen,” McDermott said. “I think it’s unfortunate if that happens because this is about Harvard football, and it’s a program that they obviously care a lot about.”

Still, McDermott asked donors to give Aurich a chance to prove himself and interact with alumni and the team.

“I would hope that you would give Coach Aurich an opportunity to show who he is and what he can do and support this team and support Harvard football,” McDermott said.

Aurich’s hiring in February — which was first reported by The Crimson — sparked backlash from players and alumni alike who supported hiring an internal candidate, with many specifically backing Defensive Coordinator Scott Larkee for the position.

Alumni also raised concerns about a lack of transparency in the hiring process and Aurich’s lack of experience in a head coaching position, with some telling The Crimson they intended to withhold donations from the program.

On Thursday, McDermott gave her most extensive response to alumni frustrations to date, pushing back against the notion that the search had not been transparent. She said she met with the team to hear their feedback and sent an email to alumni outlining what the process would look like.

“I feel like there was the same level of transparency as there was with any other search that we’ve run and an appropriate level of transparency for a hiring process that is not open to the public,” McDermott said.

She added she “certainly wasn’t going to send out a ballot to vote.”

McDermott also addressed the criticism of Aurich’s qualifications, saying that she doesn’t see previous head coaching experience as a “must” and believes focusing on that qualification is “dangerous.”

“​​They might have head coaching experience, but they may not have these other intangibles, or the belief in our Ivy League philosophy,” McDermott said.

She said she selected Aurich — who previously served as tight ends coach at Rutgers University, played at Princeton University during college, and briefly coached in the NFL — because he had both an “Ivy connection” and a “diversity and variety” of coaching experience.

“There were places where he had to adapt and learn how to coach effectively in different environments,” McDermott said.

McDermott also said Aurich’s recruiting experience and “high contact” recruitment strategy set him apart from internal candidates.

“This was his comfort zone, like this is what he loves to do, so he was very animated as he talked about it,” McDermott said. “So it wasn’t just listing off these things that he would do, you actually came away feeling like he’s absolutely doing that and probably more because he’s so on it.”

When asked about the retirement of former head football coach Tim Murphy, McDermott said, “It was a bit of a surprise.”

During their end-of-season meeting, McDermott shared that “he and I had talked a bit about his time here and what he was maybe thinking of the future,” she said. “He shared with me that he felt it was time for him to not coach.”

“I fully expected that conversation to be, ‘Maybe he thought that next season was the time,’” she said.

McDermott said she is “so happy for him,” but added that “it was a sobering moment at the same time.”

“Just knowing, ‘Okay, here we are, we’re going to have to find a football coach,’” she said.

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Tyler J.H. Ory can be reached at Follow him on X @tyler_ory.

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