Looks Like There Might be a Hot Seat in College Park

April 05, 2009 | Glenn Clark

If you opened this message thinking “Finally Glenn has come around and started to question Gary Williams”, you are going to be disappointed. Few jobs in the country are safer than Gary’s right now; and that isn’t changing any time soon.

But after Maryland’s 10-4 loss to Navy Friday night in Annapolis; the question has to be posed. Is Coach Dave Cottle currently sitting on the hot seat? Let’s check the facts…..

Cottle replaced Dick Edell as Head Coach of the Terrapins in 2002. Since that time, Cottle has posted a 83-38 record with 3 trips to the Final Four. He’s made the NCAA Tournament in 6 of 7 years, with 2002 being the only season he’s missed the dance. However, he’s only 14-10 in ACC play; and has never won a National Championship-or even reached a National Championship game. Making things worse, after back to back losses to Virginia and Navy; Maryland’s recent history against their biggest rivals is completely unacceptable.

Against Navy-Cottle is just 3-5 as head coach at Maryland. Making things worse; the Terps have won just 1 of their last 6 in the series; a double overtime win over the Mids in 2007. They were embarrassed in their most recent trip to Annapolis, a 10-4 loss in front of 15,000 at Naval Marine Corps Stadium.

Against Duke-Cottle is 6-7 since becoming the head man in College Park. He’s lost 3 of the last 5 and 4 of the last 7 to the Blue Devils, but was able to get a win over them this season at M&T Bank Stadium. Many pundits would argue that Duke has surpassed Maryland as the 2nd strongest lacrosse program in the ACC. No one would argue that Maryland is the strongest program in the ACC.

Against UMBC-After starting his Maryland tenure 6-0 against the Retrievers; Don Zimmerman has seriously turned the tables in the series. The Retrievers have now won 3 straight over the Terrapins, including two games in College Park. There is a legitimate argument that the Retrievers might be on the verge of being the 2nd strongest program in the state of Maryland. There is no argument that Maryland has the strongest lacrosse program in the state.

Against Georgetown-Here is another situation where a program Maryland once dominated has suddenly begun to shift history. Cottle began his career at Maryland with 5 straight wins over the Hoyas; including an overtime thriller in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. But the Hoyas have since taken 2 of 3 from the Terps, with both of those wins coming in College Park.

Against Virginia
-Cottle holds a 5-10 record against the Cavaliers since replacing Coach Edell. The numbers were better through 2005; as the Terps began Cottle’s tenure 4-3 against the Wahoos. But onver the last 4 seasons, the Terps have fallen to 1-7 against the ACC’s premeire program; including the double overtime heartbreaker two weeks ago.

Against Johns Hopkins-The greatest rivalry in the sport of College Lacrosse has become absolutely one-sided since Cottle’s arrival in College Park. Cottle owns just one win over the Blue Jays since becoming head coach of the Terps; and is 1-6 overall. Making things worse; Dave Pietramala has successfully morphed Hopkins back into the powerhouse they historically were; making 3 NCAA Championship games, and winning 2 titles.

And now, Cottle approaches the team that has given him fits head-on in what might well be a must-win scenario Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Terps now sit at 6-4 on the season, and weren’t at all competitive in the 2nd half against Navy Friday night. The season is particularly befuddling considering the immense level of talent Cottle has amassed this season. Before the season, prognosticators penned the Terps as a serious National Championship contender. In an interview with Drew Forrester on “The Comcast Morning Show”, Loyola Coach Charley Toomey even said the Terps were “on a different level” with Virginia and Syracuse atop the country. While Virginia (still undefeated) and Syracuse (now 7-2 after a loss to Princeton) have remained atop the nation’s rankings; the Terps have continued to fall, and find themselves possibly “on the bubble” for the NCAA Tournament.

The Terps should be okay to get an at-large berth with very winnable games against Yale, Binghamton, and Penn still on the schedule. But with the Hopkins game and a likely ACC Tournament first round game against Duke still on the table; nothing is guaranteed. The Terps’ talent level is incredible; with an attack unit arguably amongst the top 2-3 in the country. But Cottle has probably hurt his team with indecision in the cage (he has continued to alternate Brian Phipps and Jason Carter by half or by game); and with the Terps struggling out of timeout situations (Navy scored after a timeout with :26 left in the first half to take a 3-2 lead; Virginia scored 3 goals in a 2:15 span after a Maryland timeout in the 4th quarter).

If Maryland’s National Championship drought continues this season; next year will mark the 25th anniversary of their most recent crown. The Terps will bring back plenty of talent next season, including leading scorers Grant Catalino, Will Yeatman, and Ryan Young; as well as (half) starting goalie Brian Phipps. The Terps will again be participating in marquee stadium events; and their success remains vital to the entire sport, as the team is more marketable than small schools like Duke, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins.

The country’s best talent remains right here in Maryland (19 of Inside Lacrosse’s top 50 High School seniors are from Maryland or DC), and while Cottle has done a good job of bringing in talent; he is not getting everything he should from the talent he has. The Terps are preparing to move back into Byrd Stadium; where sub-10,000 people crowds are particularly noticeable. They will have suites to sell at the remodeled facility; and would be better served to sell them as a national powerhouse than coming off underperforming seasons.

With all of that said; there is a differing opinion as to whether or not Cottle actually IS on the hot seat. I spoke to 3 different sources close to the program about Cottle’s status; and I received 3 very different opinions. One source told me “no, and I don’t think he should be.” Another source said “not really, but people are talking more than they were before.” Another source-who is the closest to the program I talked to-said very clearly “yes” but admitted they did not know to what extent.

Cottle’s success might be acceptable in a lot of sports; but for a sport where the University should be dominant (like lacrosse); the Head Coach probably needs to accomplish more. These could be crucial weeks for Cottle as Head Coach at Maryland; with the stretch starting with a game that will garner serious national attention.

Should the Terps lose to Hopkins Saturday, and end up on the bubble for an at-large berth to the Tournament; it won’t be a question anymore.

-G

(Information from Inside Lacrosse, UMTerps.com, and the Maryland Men’s Lacrosse Media Guide was used in this report.)

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