Cottle feels heat ease

Lacrosse coach holds meetings, gives thumbs up

`It's been really positive'

But team statement charges UM with bad faith in process

September 28, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - On his second day as head men's lacrosse coach at the University of Maryland, Dave Cottle smiled like a man who felt the storm subsiding.

One day after he took over for the recently retired Dick Edell and was confronted by an entire team protesting his hiring, Cottle met individually with nearly two thirds of his new players and sounded like a coach scoring his first victory.

With the exception of his chat with one player, Cottle termed all of his meetings as "good" or "terrific." He also pointed to a stack of phone messages in his new office - from former players to Maryland alumni to current college and high school coaches - each of which he said offered support.

"This was a better day than yesterday," Cottle said. "I can't talk on my cell phone without five more calls coming in. If I answered my [office] phone, I wouldn't be able to do anything. I've never seen anything like it."

As for the player meetings, Cottle said, "Only one of them was questionable. We're talking about strengths and weaknesses [in players' games], things we can do to help them, how we can improve them. It's been really positive.

"The first player who showed up was a captain who said he would do anything I wanted him to do. Some of them laughed, some think this is crazy, a lot of them just don't know what to do. One kid made me cry, and he was one of the kids who wanted to hang me two days ago."

Several players who were contacted refused to comment on the situation. But the team did assemble last night and release a statement in which it criticized the school administration, saying the search committee disregarded the players' suggestion not to hire Cottle.

During the search, the school administration allowed a group of eight players to participate by questioning candidates.

The players recommended that Maryland hire either Gary Gait or Dave Slafkosky, who served as the top assistant under Edell. Gait has been the top women's lacrosse assistant for the past eight years at Maryland.

When athletic director Debbie Yow and the committee chose Cottle, players reacted angrily by rejecting the decision.

Cottle said the players then asked him on Wednesday to call off a planned practice that evening, since the players instead wanted to meet among themselves. Last night, they lashed out at the administration after meeting with Cottle.

"According to the administration, we would have an eight-person committee speak on behalf of the entire team in interviews with the finalists.

"Midway through the process, the question was posed to the eight-person committee that if there was a coach the entire team would not want to play for, who would it be? The student-athlete committee responded with the recently hired head coach's name," the statement said.

"We reacted as a team and we do not regret the actions we took. We feel the situation that the administration placed [Cottle] in was unfair, as was the corner they forced us to fight out of. Regardless of the outcome, this team will remain as one."

Cottle has scheduled a weightlifting session today, and his first fall practice is planned for Monday evening.

One player reached last night after the statement's release said, "Every individual will make their own decision by practice time on Monday. This is not a reflection of Coach Cottle."

"We're going to coach the ones who show up and try to make them better," said Cottle, who said he expects most of the players to be there. "This will pass."

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said she would not be surprised if some players wanted to give up their Maryland scholarships and transfer.

"There have been a number of players who have stepped forward to give their support of Coach Cottle," Yow said. "For anyone who does not feel that way, we will certainly provide their release, as promised."

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