Letting Cottle go isn't the answer for Maryland

Terps' expectations for men's lacrosse program are unrealistic

May 24, 2010|By Mike Preston

When you get rid of a successful lacrosse coach like Dave Cottle at Maryland, you should have a short list of quality replacements.

As of this morning, there aren't a lot of choices for the Terps. You can toss around names like Notre Dame's Kevin Corrigan and former Syracuse star Gary Gait, both top-notch coaches, but Maryland will have to ante up big bucks to lure either to College Park.

Cottle made $117,552 in base salary, less than other coaches of non-revenue sports at Maryland, but he had other sources of income because he ran highly successful summer camps.

Those opportunities probably won't be open to the new Maryland coach, and it's safe to assume that other possible candidates like Hofstra's Seth Tierney or Cornell's Jeff Tambroni already make more money in base salary than Cottle.

Good luck, Terps.

Cottle was a Baltimore native and Maryland was his dream job, so he didn't mind being underpaid by the university. The next coach won't see it that way — not if he is established. The problem at Maryland — and it has been this way for quite a while — is that athletic officials think it's their birthright to be in the Final Four every year, just because Maryland is the state's flagship university and the Terps play in the "mecca" of lacrosse.

Well, guess what? They're wrong.

If that was indeed the case, then why hasn't Maryland won a national championship since 1975? And why couldn't former Terps coach Dick Edell, in the sport's national Hall of Fame, win a national title in his 18 years before Cottle arrived?

The truth is that the Atlantic Coast Conference is the toughest league in the country, and Maryland is No. 4 in the four-team league when it comes to selling points. The Terps can't compete with Duke on academic reputation, and the beautiful, southern campuses at Virginia and North Carolina are like magnets for blue-chip recruits.

It was easier for Maryland to recruit when North Carolina was down, but that changed two years ago when Joe Breschi returned to his alma mater.

"All I would tell you is that winning is really hard. It's really hard. I've coached against Dave for a long time — both back to his Loyola days and back to my Brown days," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia. "We've played a lot of lacrosse together, and he's one of the top people in the field. So for anybody, I would just say be careful what you wish for. Dave does a good job.

"Joe Breschi has got things going on at Carolina and John Danowski [at Duke], and it's a conference of people where we're kind of beating each others' brains out on a regular basis. I think Maryland's going to miss Dave, but I'm sure they'll get a good person to take that spot."

It's understandable why Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow allowed Cottle to leave — or better yet, forced his resignation. She has kept a fire under all her coaches, including men's basketball coach Gary Williams and football coach Ralph Friedgen, even though a furnace needs to be lit under Friedgen.

That's great. You want an AD to keep everybody on their toes. But the landscape of lacrosse has changed. Sure, Virginia and Syracuse seem to be permanent fixtures in the Final Four, but lacrosse talent is so spread out across the country compared to a decade ago that other traditional powers like Johns Hopkins and Princeton have struggled.

Cottle is not beyond criticism, especially since the 2010 team was only the second group of seniors not to play in a Final Four since the tournament began in 1971. Despite getting to the semifinals in 2003, 2005 and 2006, his teams always seemed to fizzle once they got there.

If Cottle was guilty of one thing, it was over-coaching. You couldn't tell if that slow down, methodical offensive style was his choice or forced upon him because he didn't get the fast, athletic players the way Duke, Virginia or North Carolina did.

Hopefully, Cottle wasn't let go because the third-seeded Terps were upset by unseeded Notre Dame, 7-5, in the quarterfinals Saturday. Maryland played hard and was more physical as the game went on, a sign that the team was still playing hard for its coach.

But Maryland's attack was a no-show. Not one starter scored a goal, and that certainly wasn't Cottle's fault. He didn't make Ryan Young miss the entire goal from the right of the crease. He didn't make Grant Catalino throw errant balls and dropped passes. When you're coaching 18-to-22-year-olds, anything can happen on any day, and these attackmen might have been pressing to save Cottle's job.

Cottle had success at Maryland. He was 99-45, went to eight NCAA tournaments, had three Final Four appearances and won two ACC championships. Twenty-six of his players earned 45 All-American honors. His success was similar to that of Edell, who in his first nine seasons compiled a 76-36 record and went to five NCAA tournaments with three appearances in the semifinals. Edell won two ACC tournament titles, and one ACC regular-season championship.

But the Terps want more, and I'm not sure they'll get it with a new coach. The reality is that the Top 20 teams in Division I are divided into three tiers, with Maryland possibly being at the bottom of the top group, or at the top of the second group.

It's not a bad place to be, but the Terps believe a birthright puts them at the top. It's time they got a clue.


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