Many raising racket over firings at Washington College

The Inside Stuff

July 02, 1991|By Bill Tanton

Not all the fireworks at Washington College this July 4 will be set off by Dr. John Conkling, the chemistry professor who is an internationally renowned expert on pyrotechnics.

Shock waves are being felt all over little Chestertown (population 2,000) over the firing of Fred Wyman and Holly Bramble, two of the most successful coaches in the school's history.

Wyman, a Chestertown dentist, has coached the men's tennis team since 1983. He has recruited international blue-chip players, won 82.8 percent of his matches (173-36), captured six straight Middle Atlantic Conference championships and qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament each year. His team finished fourth this year.

Bramble, a Chestertown housewife and Washington College alumna ('74), took over the women's team in '87 and turned it into a winner. This year it won the school's only MAC women's title and wound up No. 13 in the nation.

The students on the two teams are the academic cream of the school's athletic crop. Though part-time coaches, Bramble and Wyman treated their jobs as full time. Combined, their annual salaries totaled $1,500.

The college, implementing the results of a 1988 study, decided last month to use only full-time coaches, eliminating Wyman and Bramble, but "grandfathering" retired athletic director Ed Athey, who still coaches baseball. The tennis teams will be coached by Tom Finnegan, men's basketball coach.

Among the tennis players who say they will not play if Wyman and Bramble are not reinstated is Tracy Peel, from Johannesburg, South Africa. Peel is a three-time All-America in singles and doubles who has an excellent chance to be Division III national champion this year.

"I'll definitely not play without them," Peel says. "Fred and Holly have treated us like family. All the players are upset. Our parents are upset. Nothing the administration can say can justify what happened."

Geoff Miller, the athletic director, was asked yesterday if the decision might be reversed.

"To my knowledge, that is not something that is going to happen," Miller said. "Anyway, I've been advised by our public relations people not to discuss this with the press."

H. Hurtt Deringer, editor of the Kent County News and a Washington College grad, says the incident "has really stirred up the town."

If it's true, as is being said, that some alumni may hold bacsubstantial gifts -- one supposedly for $1 million -- the college may wind up eating a little crow and change the policy.

* It's not a done deal by any means, but clubhouse rumors saDick Bosman and Terry Crowley will be Orioles coaches next year, replacing Al Jackson and Tom McCraw. Bosman tutors Rochester pitchers. Crowley is batting coach at Minnesota.

Crowley, an ex-Orioles player and coach, might have to leave championship club to make the switch but he'd do it. He and his family still live here.

* Good news for lacrosse fans: Johns Hopkins and Loyola, whichaven't met in the regular season since the '50s, will resume their series in 1993.

Hopkins, for so many years, was simply too good for strugglinLoyola. But eight years ago coach Dave Cottle came to Evergreen and built a program as good as any. These days neighboring Loyola and Hopkins are always in the top 10. Their meeting should be an annual highlight of the season.

Says Bob Scott, Hopkins' athletic director: "We found an opening for March of '93 and our coach, Tony Seaman, said he'd love to play Loyola. We haven't decided on sites, but we can play home-and-home, or we could play every year at Homewood, with Loyola serving as the home team every other year, so the game could draw 10,000."

* Swede Nielson, who married Glyndon's Dorothy Richards and took her off to Denver in the '60s, is visiting Baltimore and enjoying the current Orioles' home stand. He's also saying some interesting things about Denver's future as a major-league baseball city.

"Baseball won't last there," says Nielson. "Denver is a football town. People there love the Broncos.

"The Denver Bears [American Association] only draw 2,000-3,000. Less than that in April. It's cold in Denver then. The NBA team, the Nuggets, doesn't draw. Just about everything else has left town -- the Spurs, the Rockies, indoor and outdoor soccer. They even brought in quarter horses and they're gone."

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