Shoremen rebuild stick by stick after a sobering lacrosse season

March 25, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

CHESTERTOWN -- Nearly a year ago, Kevin Doyle was one of 10 Washington College lacrosse players suspended for the season because of a preseason drinking incident. He painfully watched from the sidelines as his teammates, from one of the nation's premier Division III programs, struggled through their first losing season since 1980 and national embarrassment.

On the road, the Shoremen were ridiculed by opposing fans, especially at Roanoke, where signs were displayed, reading: "These guys can't play lacrosse, but they sure can drink."

And . . .

"After the game, the tab is on [coach Terry] Corcoran."

"It was the worst time of my life," said Doyle. "The incident kept appearing in the papers, about four or five times. I was wondering when it was all going to end."

The fallout apparently ended shortly after the season. Three of the 10 players have been reinstated, five graduated and two transferred. Corcoran still is the coach.

Corcoran had what he called "the best" recruiting class in his 10 years at the school, thanks in part to millions of dollars of campus renovations, including a $5 million, 48,000-square-foot recreation facility complete with locker rooms, offices and hall of fame space for the lacrosse team.

Result: Washington College is 4-1 and ranked No. 10 in the USILA Division III poll. The Shoremen have scored 70 goals and given up 45. And they have done it with 14 freshmen, six transfers and two seniors.

"We want to get this program back to where it was before," said Corcoran, 37, who has a 97-45 record at Washington College. "We're young, but I feel that we can have a winning season. We paid our dues last year. We paid it with a losing season, and it's over. Another recruiting season like last year, and I think we can be in a good position to challenge for a national championship in a couple of years."

The incident occurred Feb. 17, 1991, when the North Carolina Highway Patrol stopped the 10 players in a van (driven by a player) going 93 mph in a 65-mph zone after a scrimmage against Duke. Police said 24 empty cans of beer were in the van along with four unopened 12-packs.

More developments unfolded soon afterward.

Corcoran admitted allowing players of legal drinking age to bring beer aboard the team bus on two occasions in the past four years, and several parents of the suspended players said it was common for players to drink at social functions after games.

The turn of events brought in-house examinations of the program as well as school policies.

"We pushed our shoulders back and dealt with it like men," said Corcoran. "We put everything out in the open, and steps were taken. It wasn't like we patched it up just to win more lacrosse games, but to improve the overall athletic program."

Washington College athletic director Geoff Miller said: "We made changes in our transportation policies and analyzed some policies in our student handbook that may not have been so clear. Our student-athletes are to have no alcohol upon leaving [for away contests] to the time they return home. There is to be no drinking at receptions. Our action has been supported by the administration and alumni as well as other coaches who could have easily been in our situation."

The incident changed Doyle's life. The Loyola High grad is back on the team, a captain and a candidate to become a two-time All-American.

He has been sober since the incident and takes all the blame.

"I was an alcoholic," Doyle admitted. "It started about six or seven years ago and happened mostly on weekends. That's when a lot of negative things kept happening.

"Since the incident, I've gotten a lot of support from my family, friends, coach and alumni," said Doyle, who is still attending counseling sessions. "I reached rock bottom. Now, where do I start in saying what did I learn? It has been so much, and it goes beyond the lacrosse field. I worked as a financial consultant this summer and will return there when I graduate. My eyes are now opened and I'm thinking with a clear head. Everyone on this team has made an effort to put last year behind us."

Of the 10 players suspended, seven were starters. Washington College ended last season with a 3-8 record, including losses by nine goals or more to John Hopkins, Navy, Hobart and rival Salisbury State.

Maybe no one suffered more than Corcoran.

He came to Washington College as an assistant from Princeton and arrived with everything he owned stuffed in the back of his trunk. In nine previous seasons, eight of his teams reached the playoffs, including four in the championship round. He had coached 41 All-Americans.

He may have seen his career flashing before his eyes.

Off the field, Corcoran's 9-year-old daughter, Christy, was suffering from lupus (a heart condition). Once, during surgery, her heart stopped beating for 45 seconds.

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