Morning Jac: A Wildcat Down
Everything comes full circle, I guess.
A year after New Hampshire beat the University of Colorado to start the Buffaloes' free-fall that ultimately led to the firing of CU head man Pete Stevenson mid-year, UNH jettisoned Jake Sullivan, its fifth-year head coach, yesterday.
An MCLA team firing its coach is not a stunning event. In fact, it's almost comedic in its frequency and the often capricious reasons for dismissal. The details behind Sullivan's departure are murky, but I feel comfortable saying they will likely not find a coach as dedicated to the program as Sullivan.
That's not a knock on Ben Clark or Rich St. Germain, who will wear the co-coach label for the rest of the year. It's just that Sullivan, as was outlined in a story I wrote for LaxMagazine's fall ball series in October, has blood in the Wildcat program.
He graduated in 1996, the year before the school decommissioned its NCAA varsity program and sent the team spiraling to the depths of the MCLA. When Sullivan took over as coach, UNH was terrible, but last year he had the Wildcats within an overtime marker of traveling to Denver.
"My goal was to build this program back up and crack the Top 20 list last year," said Sullivan in October. "That felt good for me. Now we want to crack the Top 15."
He tried to reconnect with some of the older alums from the varsity years to build a support system for this team that was trying its best to bring pride to the UNH lacrosse brand. Yet, it appears that a 1-3 start was unacceptable to those members of the program that he resurrected.
Such is life in the MCLA.
While the coaching change turned out great for Colorado last year – the Buffs earned a bid to nationals, advanced to the quarterfinals and found a (seemingly) long-term coaching solution in Mike Ryder – it sent a miserable message to the rest of the league. The mid-year firing is now seen as workable solution, no matter the long-term consequences.
It wouldn't surprise me if Sullivan never coached the sport again. His allegiance wasn't to lacrosse. It was to UNH lacrosse. And even though he is no longer wanted as the head coach, it won't impact his allegiance to the Wildcat fraternity.
"My love for UNH lacrosse is an unconditional one – I could never turn my back on it," said Sullivan to Collegelax.us. "I would rather see the team win without me than lose with me."
It is a realization that will only set in after the season, but New Hampshire may find itself in the awkward position of attaining neither of those possibilities.