By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun
6:28 PM EDT, July 6, 2011
This summer, usually a busy time in college lacrosse, has been even more turbulent than summers past.
Almost 20 percent of the Division I schools have made changes regarding their head coaches, and the subject has dwarfed other topics in lacrosse publications, on message boards, and among the coaches themselves.
ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon said the turnover is symptomatic of the sport's evolution.
"I think it's the growth of the game, and it could also be a troubling trend," he said. "I think as you see more television exposure, I think coaches make much healthier salaries these days than in years past, and I think when you're talking about coaching and a return on your investment, if you're paying a coach six figures in terms of salary, people want to see results. Remember, there are only 61 Division I coaching jobs out there. So the margin of error is even slimmer these days with athletic directors who want to win and alumni bases that want to win."
Twelve different Division I programs have experienced turmoil at the top, and eight of them (Binghamton, Holy Cross, Marist, Navy, Rutgers, Stony Brook, Towson and Wagner) have already installed successors. Bellarmine, Colgate, Siena and St. Joseph's are still trying to fill their vacancies.
What's in store for the new coaches? A sense of optimism and an opportunity to reshape teams are certainly attractive, but there's also a certain bar the administrations, alumni and fans expect to be met. Mike Waddell, athletic director at Towson, has said repeatedly that he wants to win CAA championships and contend for a national title. He replaced longtime coach Tony Seaman with defensive coordinator and associate coach Shawn Nadelen on May 29.
"At the start of every season and with every new recruiting class that I embark on, that's my main focus," Nadelen said. "I don't think that's something that Towson cannot attain. It's going to come through a lot of hard work and effort and some luck at times, I guess. But I think every team wants to win a national championship and compete at that level. I can't see any reason why that can't be Towson."
Many of the new coaches harbor the same inner drive, Dixon said.
"I think anytime you step up, these guys expect to do better and they consider these jobs to be a step up in terms of their evolution as a head coach and their responsibilities," he said. "So I think it's a two-way street. I think the expectations are incredibly high on an individual level, and I think the expectations are high on an administrative level."
Here are a few selected programs that changed head coaches and a brief thumbnail on what awaits the new leaders:
•Navy: On June 9, former Stony Brook coach Rick Sowell succeeded Richie Meade, who guided the Midshipmen to five Patriot League regular-season and tournament titles in six years and seven NCAA tournament appearances, including a berth in the championship final in 2004. Sowell inherits a young but disciplined group, but the administration and alumni expect results.
•Towson: The university promoted Nadelen after parting ways with Seaman, who went 263-166 in 30 years as a head coach at Towson, Johns Hopkins, Penn and C.W. Post. The Tigers have impressive facilities, but have gone 2-16 against Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Loyola, UMBC and Navy over the past four years.
•Stony Brook: The Seawolves moved quickly to replace Sowell, successfully wooing away Jim Nagle from Colgate and announcing his hiring on June 20. Nagle enjoyed an 86-64 record in 10 seasons with the Raiders, but he inherits a Stony Brook squad that bids farewell to four starters and possibly two more depending on whether they apply for a fifth year of eligibility with the NCAA.
•Colgate: The Raiders are still searching for Nagle's replacement. Whoever he is, he will assume the reins of a program that barely missed qualifying for the NCAA tournament this past spring and returns sophomore midfielder Peter Baum, a two-time All-Patriot League first-team selection.
•Rutgers: In Brian Brecht, the former Siena coach who succeeds Jim Stagnitta, the Scarlet Knights get a coach who turned the Saints into a powerhouse in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, where they won four regular-season titles and two tournament crowns. But can Brecht, who was hired on June 16, lift a program that must compete with the likes of Syracuse, Notre Dame and Villanova in the ultra-competitive Big East?
•Siena: Like Colgate, the Saints are still unmanned. No one would confuse the program with some of its upper-echelon peers, but Siena compiled a 37-17 in the MAAC during Brecht's seven years there. And the team returns its entire starting attack and two-thirds of its starting midfield.
•Wagner: Matt Poskay helped Virginia capture national championships in 2003 and 2006 as a midfielder, but no one is expecting similar results with the Seahawks. The team is 10-143 overall since 2001 and has beaten just one conference foe in the last seven years. But Poskay's championship resume could resonate with prospects to help Wagner gain some level of respect in Division I and the Northeast Conference.
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