Who told players they can run show?

September 27, 2001|By Mike Preston

UNIVERSITY of Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow should call the parents of every men's lacrosse player this morning and offer the option of playing for new head coach Dave Cottle or transferring.

If they choose the latter, express thanks and send them a road map to the campuses of Hopkins, Syracuse, Virginia, Princeton. ...

Just go, please.

Upon hearing that Cottle, of Loyola College, had agreed to become the Terps' new head coach Tuesday night, some of the players voted not to play for him, and requested that either Maryland women's assistant coach Gary Gait or men's assistant Dick Slafkosky become the successor to former head man Dick Edell.

The players voiced their concerns in front of Cottle and several school administrators, an embarrassment in itself.

But more about that later.

How about the players?

They had the audacity, the nerve to try to dictate policy to a university that is giving them a free education while also hiring one of the most talented coaches in the profession.

Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

A generation of bad haircuts, multiple earrings and farcical song lyrics was trying to pull a power play. It's time for Yow to teach them one of life's lessons that you're supposed to learn in college:

Be quiet and play ball.

There is only one king (men's basketball coach Gary Williams) and one queen (Yow) in Maryland's athletic department these days, and every one else has to fall in line. Yow gets paid to make decisions, one of which is hiring coaches. And if she allows athletes to make those for her, then she has lost control.

As for the players, there aren't a lot of options. Either play or goodbye. Maryland isn't Rutgers. It's not Delaware. There are thousands of kids in upstate New York or Baltimore - the two meccas of lacrosse - that would play for Cottle at Maryland in a heartbeat. Certainly, the Terps could use a few more hotshots, anyway, with only one first-team All-American last season.

But this defiance won't last long. We're dealing with fickle teen-agers and young adults who buckle under peer pressure. They change their minds as frequently as Michael Jordan does about retiring.

One day after voicing their complaints, most of these rebels couldn't be found by reporters on campus yesterday. They had scampered like roaches when the lights come on.

There aren't a lot of people who enjoy change, and going from Edell to Cottle will be a major one. Edell was a player's coach who relied on close relationships with his players to motivate them.

Cottle stays at a distance. There won't be any appearances at tailgate parties in the parking lot. He is not a player's best friend. Head games are a major source of motivation. Discipline and X&O's are strengths because he is a lacrosse junkie.

This program needs discipline. Once Edell became ill last season forcing him to miss practice time, a band of his players became rowdy with some off field incidents, which is nothing new in the world of college lacrosse.

They were from rich, preppy families and extremely outspoken. When Gait or Slafkosky didn't get hired, the snooty bunch pouted again.

But they shouldn't be that involved in the process in the first place. They should be allowed to voice concerns about the program before the interviewing process begins, and that's it. Yow, though, allowed eight players to meet and interview prospects.

Big mistake. Players shouldn't have that much of an impact. The situation got ugly Tuesday night. Yow needs to fine another approach, one that is less corporate.

"I do appreciate their concerns and opinions, and I do listen to them. It's part of our normal process," Yow said. "As with every case with a coaching change, the choice was not unanimous, but we expected that. The player representatives' opinions were taken into consideration, but there were many other opinions and recommendations.

"And this is not an election by popular vote. He [Dave] is not a politician. After hearing all of the information, the only parties accountable are the search committee and myself. I took the recommendation of the search committee and we hired Dave Cottle."

Actually, the decision was really a no-brainer. Slafkosky had been Edell's assistant for 25 years, but has no head-coaching experience. Gait, possibly the second-best player ever after Jim Brown, has won on every level as a player and helped guide the women's program to seven championships in his eight years as an assistant.

But he had no head-coaching experience, either.

Gait had been telling associates that he was going to get the Maryland job. The speculation was so strong that candidates such as Notre Dame's Kevin Corrigan and Georgetown's Dave Urick withdrew from consideration. Some believe Gait is so upset that he might resign from Maryland.

"I certainly will say we respect Gary, and appreciate what he has done for the program," said Yow. "The hope is he would stay with us. But we understand he will have choices and might do something else, whether it's in or out of coaching."

This is Cottle's dream job. He turned down the title of associate athletic director and a raise that would have put his salary between $105,000 to $125,000 a year to sign a four-year contract at Maryland. He turned Loyola, a small, Catholic school in the city, into a national power with an overall record of 181-70.

But coaching at Maryland will create more of an opportunity to win a title. The Terps have a sprawling, attractive campus with a powerhouse basketball program and a rapidly improving football team. At Loyola, Cottle was not getting the same blue-chip players as the Virginias, Princetons or Hopkinses.

Now, he can.

His present players can jump on board, too. Just be quiet and play. Or they can move along.

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