ORONO An attorney who served for 12 years as chief of staff to Sen. Susan Collins was named interim athletics director at the University of Maine.

Maine President Robert Kennedy selected Steve Abbott, who’s following in the footsteps of his father. Walt Abbott was Maine’s football coach from 1967-75 and also served as athletic administrator.

“Steve exemplifies the characteristics I was looking for in an interim athletic director,” Kennedy said in a statement released by the university. “He understands the nature of the University of Maine and its athletics department, having been so close to both for much of his life. He also brings integrity, intelligence and a real appreciation for the important role of an athletics operation within an academic community. I expect the university and Black Bear sports to benefit significantly from his leadership.”

Steve Abbott was raised in Orono and graduated from Orono High School in 1981, where he was a standout on the football team that never lost a game during his four-year career. He attended Harvard, where he was captain of the football team.

Abbott was a candidate for governor this year, losing in the Republican primary to Paul LePage in June.

“I am delighted that President Kennedy has given me the opportunity to serve this institution a place that has meant so much to me personally and that means so much to the entire state,” Abbott said in a statement. “Under his direction I intend to run an athletics program that will continue to reflect the values of the university, provide coaches with the support they need to win, and provide our students with an exceptional educational experience through sports.”

Blake James, Maine’s current athletic director, is stepping down Sept. 7 to take a post at the University of Miami.

Kennedy says he will appoint a committee to conduct a national search for James’ permanent successor.

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