McGlinchey forced into sad goodbye Frostburg State coach is in failing health

November 03, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Mike McGlinchey calls it "the toughest decision I've ever made in my life," but it was one that he couldn't put off any longer.

With his health failing and his football team at Frostburg State struggling, McGlinchey met with his players last Thursday and told them he would relinquish his duties as coach after this season.

McGlinchey, 50, said he decided to resign at the beginning of the season, his fourth at Frostburg, but had planned on waiting until after the final game to make the announcement. He suffers from a neural muscular disorder that almost six years ago was diagnosed as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- Lou Gehrig's disease -- and the symptoms distort his speech and leave him fatigued.

McGlinchey has tried to maintain the same schedule as before, performing all the same duties and immersing himself in the program, but that has grown more difficult.

"I was told [when first diagnosed] that I had one or two years to live, but at the slow rate it was going, I thought I would have about 10 years to be able to coach," McGlinchey said. "But this past year it's really started to progress and has really affected my voice and my strength.

"Being a head football coach, you have to be able to lead a program -- recruiting and training a staff, advising and communicating with your players. When I was out there at practices, I would get real tired and lose my voice, so I knew I would do it [resign] after this year. I wanted to do what was best for the team."

McGlinchey met last week with Frostburg's president, Dr. Catherine Gira, and said he became so emotional that "I knew I would be in trouble with my players." He then dictated what he wanted to say to his wife, Marylane, who read it to the team.

"Frostburg is such a great place with great people. They deserve to have a great program and I didn't think I'd be able to do that in the future," McGlinchey said. "Just best the idea I can't drive anymore, visiting schools, talking to players, talking to parents. I'm not going to be able to do that."

The Bobcats are 29-10-2 during McGlinchey's tenure going into tomorrow's game against Waynesburg College. They are 5-3 this year and coming off what McGlinchey said was the most important game he ever coached, a 21-6 victory over Ferrum.

"We haven't played as well as we could have at times," he said. "People throughout the state didn't know how good this team could be. I told them the message I've always tried to give is, for each person to obtain greatness within themselves. Then, lTC maybe they could do things they didn't dream they could do. I knew if we just played with our hearts, played our hardest and followed the game plan, we would win the game."

The Bobcats put together their best performance of the season.

"It doesn't get any better than how I felt last Saturday," McGlinchey said. "I knew I couldn't talk to them like I used to. I knew I couldn't show them the things I used to. I maybe thought I lost the gift that I had, but they showed me I hadn't. It was a great day for me."

McGlinchey's first head coaching job in football came in 1982 at Salisbury State. In five years, the Sea Gulls went 44-11-1 and reached the NCAA Division III playoffs three times, including an appearance in the 1986 championship game. Then he spent five seasons at Division II Central Connecticut State before coming to Frostburg, which earned its first playoff berth and won a school-record 10 games in 1993. His overall coaching record stands at 90-48-6 (.652).

McGlinchey doesn't plan to stay away, saying he'll be "somewhere on the field" next season. "I can't be the head coach," he said, "but I'll be trying to help people."

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