Cottle wavers, signs as Terps protest hiring

Lacrosse revolt gives him pause

calls provide lift

College Lacrosse

September 27, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - This is not the way Dave Cottle wanted to begin the next phase of his coaching career.

Cottle officially left Loyola College after 19 seasons yesterday and became the new men's lacrosse coach at the University of Maryland by signing a four-year, $340,000 contract, but not before hesitating to take the job as he faced a revolt led by a group of players upset that Gary Gait did not get the position.

As a show of protest, only five players showed up, dressed in street clothes, for last night's scheduled practice. They included co-captains Andy Burman, Mike Morsell and Mike LaMonica, along with Mike Mollot and Mike Howley.

None of the players would comment after meeting with Cottle following the aborted workout. Cottle said he would meet individually with players tomorrow and has scheduled a weightlifting session on Friday.

The university scrapped its plans to introduce Cottle at a news conference yesterday, since the coach was wavering in his desire to replace Dick Edell until midday. Edell retired three weeks ago for health reasons after coaching Maryland for 18 years and producing 282 victories over 29 seasons overall, good for fifth on the all-time victory list.

Cottle drove to the Maryland campus on Tuesday night for a team meeting and ran into spirited resistance. University athletic department sources said he was met by the 45-man team and heard the complaints of several players who said they would be unwilling to play for him and, instead, wanted Gait to coach the Terps.

Gait, the Syracuse legend who has never been a head coach and has been the top assistant for the Maryland women's team for the past eight years, had been rumored for several years to be in line as the next men's coach in College Park.

By yesterday afternoon, sources said Cottle had received calls of support from individual Maryland players who had said nothing at the Tuesday meeting. Cottle met with some players and their parents after signing his contract.

"It's been a difficult decision. I slept like a baby [Tuesday] night - up every five minutes. I had a great job, and this was a little bit of a hornet's nest. It gives you second thoughts," said Cottle, who downplayed the negative reaction he has encountered.

"It's kids being kids. There were some different agendas. They said things they didn't like about the [hiring] process, and then they got around to me. Whenever you take over a program, you have to develop a relationship with kids and develop trust with them. It's been a very emotional time for these kids ever since Coach Edell resigned. This is a difficult situation."

Cottle, 46, said he expects some players to request releases from their scholarships for the purpose of transferring to other schools. He has yet to begin forming his staff, which sources said might end up including one of the Terps' current assistants, Dave Slafkosky or Jon Stainbrook.

He also must make up lost ground on the recruiting trail. Scores of players around the country have committed to various programs and will begin signing letters of intent in November.

After posting a 181-70 record - giving him the third-best winning percentage (.721) among active coaches - and guiding the Greyhounds to 18 consecutive winning seasons and 14 straight NCAA tournament berths, Cottle said he was attracted by the major facilities upgrades he would enjoy at Maryland, which plays its games in Byrd Stadium.

He said he looked forward to his inherited recruiting strength, which he thinks will give him the chance to coach a national champion.

"Coach Cottle was ultimately rewarded based on his track record and partly based on the opinions of people who spoke very highly of him. That includes former Loyola and Maryland players, and a number of the most respected coaches in the country," Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said.

"What [Cottle] has accomplished on the field at a small, Jesuit institution, competing against some of the athletic giants in the nation, is truly extraordinary," said Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan, who will initiate a search for a new coach promptly.

"He left Loyola's program in very good shape. He wasn't running from something, he was running toward something. This is kind of a dream job for Dave."

Cottle, whom sources said was offered an associate athletic director position and a salary in excess of $100,000 at Loyola, thought twice about fielding the Maryland offer after meeting opposition among the Terps.

Yow had formed a six-person search committee and also invited a group of eight players to participate in the search by questioning candidates. What the players voiced on Tuesday differed sharply from the views of Yow and the committee.

"We had some players indicate they thought we should have hired someone else," Yow said. "This is not the election of a politician. This is the hiring of a coach. I was discouraged [on Tuesday]. I was encouraged [yesterday] when a number of players stepped forward to give their support of Coach Cottle."

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