Still lobbying for Gait at Maryland? Get over it

October 18, 2001|By Mike Preston

GARY GAIT HAS moved on with the rest of his life, and it's time for those who lobbied for him to get the lacrosse coaching job at the University of Maryland to do the same.

Ever since Sept. 25, when Maryland officials selected Dave Cottle over Gait for one of the most coveted jobs in the sport, there have been floods of letters and e-mails insinuating that this was the greatest conspiracy and coverup since Watergate.

To those writers, I suggest you put on your khaki pants, Docksiders with no socks and oxford shirts, and get a life. Please, let this issue rest.

Gait has, and he was in the center of the controversy.

"Obviously, I'm not thrilled that I didn't get the job," Gait said in his first public statements since the hiring. "Like anyone else, I was disappointed because this was the dream job.

"But I'm not disappointed anymore," said Gait, an assistant in the women's program at Maryland the past eight years. "I set one goal for myself, and I didn't get it. Now it's time to set another one and have hope for the future. I'm not the type to sit around and sulk. Why should I? I was never guaranteed the job."

What?

Word on the lacrosse street had Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow and Gait shaking hands in a backroom deal soon after former coach Dick Edell announced his retirement in early September. But we can take it further than that, and it really gets juicy.

Conspiracy theorists had Gait and Yow working out an agreement years ago in which they were plotting to overthrow the Edell regime.

Gait laughs at them all.

"I've heard so many rumors, it's crazy," said Gait, considered one of the sport's best players ever. "I went through the interview process, but I was never guaranteed the job. Never. But I was encouraged by several members of the athletic department not to pursue other opportunities, and I was told that it would be in my best interest to stay here if the job ever became opened."

Asked if Yow ever told him that, Gait was silent for a moment, then said: "Yes, she told me that would be a factor for me to stay at Maryland if I wanted the job. But again, she never guaranteed me the job."

Debbie, Debbie, Debbie. Shame on you. The veteran administrator beat up on a young assistant. Both tried to play the leverage game, but Yow won because she kept the game's biggest attraction (Gait) around the women's program while also keeping him in line for the men's job.

And if the vacancy of the men's program didn't attract the quality candidate that she wanted, she had instant star power in Gait.

Sounds like business as usual.

Plus, Gait had no other place to go. Coaching opportunities at the "dream jobs" such as Maryland, Syracuse, Hopkins and Virginia are limited. Those schools look for coaches with vast experience, so Gait's opportunities were going to be at schools like Rutgers or UMBC or a Division III school.

He knew, just like Yow, his best chance was to stay at Maryland.

Unfortunately for Gait, he was beaten out by Cottle, who had 19 successful years as a head coach at Loyola compared to zero as a head coach for Gait. But there's more to these theories.

Here's another one: Gait didn't get the job because Ravens minority owner Steve Bisciotti, who is good friends with Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, is also good friends with Cottle. Bisciotti supposedly pulled two power-play moves by, A) promising to build the university a $3 million indoor training facility if it hired Cottle; and, B) withdrawing nearly $750,000 in contributions if Cottle wasn't hired.

It's true that Bisciotti and his brother are friends with Cottle, but Bisciotti said there were no such deals and discussions with Maryland officials.

And if he did endorse Cottle, what's the big deal? Do you think that former Maryland football players Neil O'Donnell and Boomer Esiason didn't get in Yow's ear about hiring current Terps football coach Ralph Friedgen?

Also, Bisciotti has other projects, like building the Ravens an $8 million training complex when he becomes the team's majority owner at the start of the 2004 season.

While others have sulked on Gait's behalf, he's back on his usual hectic pace as the game's top ambassador and player. He recently returned from his native Canada, where he is player/assistant coach for the Canadian National Team. He is still involved with the Washington Power, an indoor team.

The framework for his numerous camps around the country are coming together. Gait has no plans to leave the women's program for at least another season. He still gets along with Cottle and Yow.

"I've always gotten along well with Dave," Gait said. "I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet, but I'm sure he will do a good job here. I've spoken with Debbie and she has told me she would like for me to stay, and that she will support me in whatever I choose."

"It's going to take a great opportunity for me to leave this area," said Gait, who lives in Mount Washington. "My wife has a dance company in Cockeysville. Living here allows me to pursue a lot of different things, so unless it's the perfect situation, I plan on being around. But you never know. I'll take a look at other options, and we'll go from there."

Either way, Gait has moved on. One day, he'll end up being a head coach somewhere and he'll probably win a championship. But it just wasn't his time at Maryland, something he understands, but others won't let go.

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