Making official what my colleague Mike Preston had alluded to in today's column, UMBC coach Don Zimmerman has signed a six-year contract extension to continue coaching the Retrievers through the 2014 season, the school announced this afternoon.
"It's an honor and it certainly means a lot to know that my family and I have this type of support from the school and particularly [athletic director] Dr. [Charles] Brown and [school president] Dr. [Freeman] Hrabowski," Zimmerman said during a brief phone interview. "It feels great to know that I'm going to be here and continue to work with the kids that we have. We have great kids. They mean a lot to me, they're a part of my extended family, and just knowing that I'm going to be here for the next six years is really a dream come true."
A head coach for 22 years, Zimmerman just completed his 15th season with UMBC, guiding the program this spring to its third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a school-record 11 straight wins.
Goalkeeper Jeremy Blevins, who was recruited from Calvert Hall by Zimmerman, acknowledged a team-wide concern that Zimmerman would leave the Retrievers for the vacant lacrosse position at North Carolina, where Zimmerman would have been reunited with former Tar Heels coach and current senior associate athletic director Willie Scroggs.
"I really wanted to have Coach Zim for all four of my years," said Blevins, who will be a senior next season. "I think he gives everyone a fair chance. There's really no politics with Coach Zim. Whoever plays well is going to play. Him being like that makes everything more competitive and that's why I think some of the kids on the team are as good as they are."
Midfielder Maxx Davis said word of Zimmerman's extension spread quickly as players were relieved about maintaining a sense of continuity.
"Coach Zim, with the offense that he runs, gives us the freedom to utilize our natural skills," said Davis, a junior next season. "With a new coach, I'm not sure how we would have been able to react to new plays and new schemes. It definitely would have been difficult to adjust to an entirely new playing style."
In other lacrosse news, the Big East announced the formation of a men's lacrosse league involving 2008 national champion Syracuse, 2008 quarterfinalist Notre Dame, Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's and Villanova for the 2010 season.
"We are looking forward to the excitement that men's lacrosse will bring to the Big East Conference," Big East commissioner Michael Tranghese said following a unanimous vote by the league's 16 athletic directors during a recent annual spring meeting. "We have schools with established and successful programs, which want to come together and compete under the Big East brand."
The departure of Georgetown, Rutgers and St. John's reduces the number of teams in the Eastern College Athletic Conference to three in Loyola, Fairfield and Hobart. Inside Lacrosse speculates that the league could absorb Great Western Lacrosse League schools Ohio State, Denver, Air Force and Bellarmine.
The Colonial Athletic Association, which includes Towson, Delaware, Drexel and Hofstra, could replace Villanova, Robert Morris and Sacred Heart (the latter two leaving for the Northeast Conference) with two programs in Massachusetts and Penn State to gain the six teams necessary to earn an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse's decision leaves only three independent schools in Johns Hopkins, Presbyterian and Jacksonville (which is going varsity in 2009).
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