Uniqueness of Loyola brings back Dirrigl

Former Cottle assistant continues school mission

College Lacrosse

October 05, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

At Rutgers University, Bill Dirrigl was backed by a full allotment of lacrosse scholarships and an athletic department with the infrastructure and facilities necessary to host the NCAA's final four.

Loyola has a profile in men's athletics nearly as small as 3,000-seat Curley Field, so what made Dirrigl leave an enormous state university to return to Charles Street?

"Loyola College cares about lacrosse," Dirrigl said yesterday, after he was introduced as the Greyhounds' new coach. "This is a unique place."

Dirrigl was the head coach at Rutgers last season, but he spent nine of the previous 12 years as an assistant to Dave Cottle, who last week took over at Maryland. The 34-year-old Dirrigl has intimate knowledge of the work that went into making Loyola a regular in the NCAA tournament and men's lacrosse the preeminent sport on campus, a rarity in a Division I athletic program.

Johns Hopkins, remember, is Division III in all other sports.

The Greyhounds don't have the tradition of the Blue Jays, and the absence of football heightens their aspirations in lacrosse, as Dirrigl will continue the mission of Cottle, to bring an NCAA championship to a campus where the sport had little identity a generation ago.

"Dave Cottle took Loyola to new heights," Dirrigl said. "He set the bar very high. My job is to raise the bar even higher. ... I have a tough time talking about it when two universities [Princeton and Syracuse] have dominated the sport, but it's no slight to Dave Cottle to say that our goal is to win a national championship."

Dirrigl was instrumental in recruiting much of the Loyola team that threw a one-goal scare into eventual NCAA titlist Princeton in last May's quarterfinals.

"They got the right guy," senior midfielder Michael Sullivan said. "I don't think there's one guy in our locker room who doesn't want to play for Coach Dirrigl ... "

While Cottle went through several steps in the hiring process at Maryland, Loyola's size made for a quicker search. The only obstacle to Dirrigl's return was Rutgers, which signed him to a five-year deal in the summer of 2000.

Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan, who worked for Rutgers from 1973 to 1991, said he felt no guilt about luring Dirrigl. Boylan and Loyola were on the other side of a similar situation in 1994, when first-year basketball coach Skip Prosser led the Greyhounds to their only NCAA title, then returned to Xavier when its head coaching position became open. Prosser is now at Wake Forest.

Dirrigl said he had a difficult time telling his players at Rutgers that he was leaving after one season. He, wife Karen and 2-year-old daughter Hailey spent Wednesday night at the home of Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, another former Loyola assistant whom Dirrigl called his best friend.

Boylan declined to elaborate on a Loyola statement that said Dirrigl will assume his duties at a time "mutually agreeable" between Loyola and Rutgers, but some coaching contracts require a certain amount of notice before they are broken. Dirrigl said he will watch Loyola in tomorrow's Lacrosse For Leukemia fall-ball fundraiser at McDonogh from the stands.

Assistant coach Charley Toomey will continue to run the team through fall practices. Former Loyola star and Virginia assistant Chris Colbeck attended yesterday's media conference, and may join the Greyhounds in some capacity. Dirrigl said that Loyola, an independent, may reconsider its planned entry into the Colonial Athletic Association.

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