W. Maryland's Sprague resigns, doesn't say why

December 09, 1992|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff Writer

Western Maryland College football coach Dale Sprague resigned yesterday after seven years with the Division III program.

An announcement from the school said Western Maryland president Robert H. Chambers "reluctantly accepted" Sprague's resignation. Neither Sprague nor college officials said why the coach resigned.

In the announcement, Chambers said: "Dale has left the program in much better shape than he found it. He turned around a program which was struggling when he arrived."

He went on to praise Sprague's "commitment and diligence."

Chambers declined to comment further on Sprague's departure.

Sprague said yesterday: "I'm happy to say I'm looking for bigger and better things. It's been seven good years, but Dale Sprague is looking to move on.

"I've done all I can here and felt I can't do anything more. When I got here, the program was way down. I'm glad to leave it in better shape now as what I inherited -- I'm proud of that."

After a 5-1 start this year, the Green Terrors seemed headed for their first Centennial Football Conference title, but they dropped their last four games to finish 5-5.

After a season-ending loss to Johns Hopkins on Nov. 14, Sprague said: "This is the most under-achieving football team I've ever coached. I'm ashamed of it. We're not getting the commitment out of the players that we're getting out of the coaching staff."

Those comments disturbed some Western Maryland professors, who complained about them during a faculty meeting, the Carroll County Times reported last week.

And four players recently spoke to a faculty member about Sprague's harsh style.

Last Tuesday, the four met with Ethan Seidel, a professor and assistant to Chambers, to discuss the problems surrounding the team and Sprague. Seidel said it was just students confiding in a professor andturned out to have no effect on Sprague's resignation.

"A lot of students will come to me to talk," Seidel said.

"They asked me to relay their concerns [to Chambers], but by the time I talked to Chambers, the situation had already come about. It all seemed to come to a head at the same time."

Sophomore running back Brian Stiff, who wasn't among the four players who met with Seidel, said he wasn't shocked to learn Sprague was resigning.

"It didn't come as a big surprise after the statement he made putting us down after the last game," Stiff said. "You don't say that about a team and expect to coach the team next year.

"When we were 4-0 and winning, it was nothing but praise. But as soon as we started losing, he lost confidence in us and didn't care much about the players -- just winning."

After the Randolph-Macon loss on Oct. 10 -- the team's first -- the following week of practice was a "week of hell," Stiff said. The Green Terrors went on to defeat CFC rival Dickinson the next Saturday before losing their final four.

"He was running us to death," Stiff said. "By the fifth week, the conditioning is already there. It should be easier, but things got tougher. I think it affected the players. By the end of the season, a lot of guys were pretty tired."

Sophomore defensive end Ted Speers said he had no problems with Sprague, but there were times when the team was "a little lax in the legs because of the running."

Sophomore center Bill Bower, however, said he didn't think Sprague's practices were too hard.

In 1986, Sprague took over a program that had lost 11 straight games. In his seven years, he compiled a 20-48-2 mark concluding with three consecutive non-losing seasons. In 1990, the Green Terrors finished 6-3-1 and have been 5-5 the past two seasons.

In the release, Chambers said that no decision has yet been made concerning the coaching vacancy.

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