Put me in, Coach
A new era at UVM Athletics
by JON REIDEL
New Athletic Director Bob Corrans first
official act was signing a contract for the mens basketball team
to play UCLA in Los Angeles. Though Corran doesnt take credit
for scheduling the ambitious game, the action seemed fitting given his
desire to take UVM athletics to a higher plateau, or as he likes to
put it, to bring it up to par with the Universitys high academic
Corran, 53, fresh from a six-year stint as athletic director at the
University of Minnesota-Duluth, says the goal of putting athletics on
the same pedestal as academics at UVM, typically ranked in the top 50
among public universities, is well within reach.
It will be a challenge, says Corran, who was born in Northern
Ireland and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. It is a process where
you can see the obstacles and the end point. The table is being set
here in a way that, with some hard work, those obstacles can be removed.
By the time Corran and his wife, Libby, who have two sons, moved to
Vermont for his first day of work on June 16, UVM was in need of head
coaches for mens hockey, womens basketball, skiing, and
track and field/cross-country. In many regards, who Corran hired would
be an early indication of the types of individuals he felt had the qualities
to take the athletic program to the next level. It would also shed light
on how he defined athletic success.
Clearly, the wins and losses on the resumes would matter, but they didnt
seem to be the key deciding factor, as Corran and the search committees
passed on candidates with more impressive records and deeper head coaching
experience. Corran says that measuring athletic success is as difficult
as hiring the people you think can achieve it.
Any hiring is subjective, Corran says. No matter how
hard you try to be objective it gets down to a feeling, who you feel
most strongly about. Certainly the general public will be more black-and-white
about it, measuring it more by wins and losses, and thats a priority
for us too, but were focusing more on the process of preparing
teams to win as opposed to focusing on winning specific games. If all
these things are working, wins will be one of the outcomes.
Corran, who helped build the foundation for three consecutive Division
I national championships by Minnesota-Duluths womens hockey
team, says all the new coaches are committed to making their athletes
better people on and off the playing field.
They have to have solid values that fit with educational sport,
Corran says. They have to be committed to serving people. Thats
what we do. We serve others. If you dont come with that kind of
value base, you may be successful short term, but youre not going
to be a good person within the department. That service has to extend
beyond your own narrow focus.
Marketing, event management, and the improvement of athletic facilities
are three areas Corran says UVM must improve on to join the upper echelon
of Division I sports. There are some inherent advantages at this
institution that havent been taken full advantage of, he
says. But with a proud tradition and history in athletics, strong academics,
and committed leadership, Corran adds that UVM is in a position to seize
the opportunity to grow the program in positive ways.
Kevin Sneddon, Men's Hockey
Next Best Thing To Playing
Kevin Sneddon would like nothing better
than to have his UVM players experience what he experienced as a freshman
starter for Harvard during the 1988-89 season winning a national
championship. But before the 33-year-old Burlington, Ontario native
starts talking about taking the Catamounts back to the Frozen Four for
the first time since 1996, hed like to work on making Vermont
an ECAC contender again.
To make that happen, Vermonts fourth coach in 40 years plans to
add as many blue chip recruits as possible and help his current players
get even better.
UVM is one of the best programs in the country, so in respect
to recruiting, we should be involved with the best players in the country,
Sneddon says. Players of that caliber want to win national championships,
so before we can recruit them, weve got to prove to prospects
that we can win.
Sneddon had Union College, where he was an assistant coach for four
years before becoming head coach in 1998, on an upward track. Union
increased its win total in each of Sneddons five seasons heading
up the program and last year he led the Dutchmen to their first-ever
ECAC home-ice playoff series. Thats an especially notable achievement,
given that Union does not offer athletic scholarships for hockey.
Sneddon sounds confident he can bring Catamount hockey up to a winning
record and beyond. In fact, he says he expects to turn UVM into one
of the truly elite programs in the nation, and hes looking forward
to the pressure that will undoubtedly come with it.
If you dont feel any pressure, then maybe you shouldnt
be in these shoes, Sneddon says. I enjoy the pressures that
come with coaching. Its the next best thing to playing.
Sharon Dawley, Women's Basketball
Beyond The First Round
Sharon Dawley is haunted by the memory
of a dream nearly realized. Vermonts new womens basketball
coach worked for 10 years as a Dartmouth assistant coach with the goal
of getting the Ivy League squad past the first round of the NCAA tournament.
On three occasions, the Big Green made it to the Big Dance, but were
eliminated in their first game.
Sitting in her new office at Patrick Gym, Dawley rattles off the painful
losses: Virginia by 3, Rutgers by 12, and Purdue by 4.
Just making the tournament is a considerable achievement, but after
a few trips, coaches, players, and fans start dreaming about a little
more. Dawleys NCAA experience is one that her UVM coaching predecessors
can identify with. That next step looms as a goal for the Catamounts,
Dawley hit the ground running this summer with recruiting, hoping to
broaden the programs geographic reach and going after some of
the nations top players.
No matter where you are its a hard sell when youre
competing against 10 other schools for a top player, Dawley says.
Were involved with some top 100 level players, but were
also recruiting a lot of second tier ones. You dont want to go
after just the highest level players, then end up not getting anyone.
Before Catamount fans start fantasizing about beating the UConns of
the world, Dawley warns that UVM would be better served to work on conquering
the constantly improving America East. Becoming a top 25 team
may not be a realistic goal, Dawley says. Wed like
to win the America East title and go to the NCAA tournament. But with
B.U. and Maine getting better each year, it will be challenging.
Bill Reichelt, Skiing
Staying On Top
Following in the tracks of a legend is
never easy, but Bill Reichelt has a pretty good idea how he plans to
succeed Chip LaCasse, who stepped down at the end of last season after
33 years leading UVM skiing.
Skiing has had tremendous success here, says Reichelt. Id
like to not only maintain it, but take it to the next level. It may
take awhile but I wont be satisfied unless we keep progressing
and evolving to stay on top.
Reichelt, a Stowe native who has served as mens alpine coach for
the past two seasons, says LaCasse built the program into a national
power by staying on top of trends and training methods. He plans to
do the same.
Im going to try some different things, especially with our
training, says Reichelt. Ive got a lot of new ideas
that wont always work, but I want to be innovative in our approach.
Reichelt has his work cut out for him with three members of UVMs
NCAA runner-up team having moved on.
But Reichelt has already landed two of the top prep skiers in the nation,
and hopes to bring in some additional recruits. With a number of high-quality
returnees forming the foundation of the team, Reichelt is hoping to
have the Catamounts primed by the time the 2005 NCAA Ski Championships
roll around, which will likely be held on home snow at Mt. Mansfield
and the Trapp Family Lodge Cross-Country Ski Center.
Reichelt says keeping the coaching staff intact has been crucial not
only in the area of recruiting, but overall morale of the team. Allan
Serrano will remain as head Nordic coach and Erica MacConnell 01
as assistant alpine coach. In addition, longtime volunteer assistant
coach Fred Fayette 69 continues with the Catamount ski program.
Matt Belfield, Cross-Country / Women's Track
Winning The Right Way
Matt Belfield represents the last of
the four coaches hired by Bob Corran within the first 53 days of his
tenure. Not surprisingly, the former Ithaca College coach fits the profile
of the previous three to a tee: Young (35); successful as an athlete
(six-time all-conference high jumper) and coach (conference coach of
the year five times while leading the Bombers to three straight conference
outdoor track titles); and hungry (with plans to take the program to
the next level).
Belfield, whose wife Bonnie Yuen was an assistant track coach at UVM
in the mid 1990s under longtime coach Ed Kusiak, who retired in June
after 34 years, says hell work hard to convince local talent to
stay close to home.
In order for Belfield and his wife,
who will be one of his assistants along with current assistant Joe Gingras
99, to take the program to perennial New England contender status,
convincing the Green Mountain States best to remain in Vermont,
as well as attracting top out-of-staters, will be imperative. Only five
homegrown Vermonters have qualified for the Foot Locker Cross Country
Championships the nations only true high school national
championship and all of them chose schools other than UVM for
It would be tough to attract kids of that level right now,
Belfield says. You have to demonstrate to high profile recruits
that they can get better here. But UVM has a lot to offer student-athletes.
Ive never wanted to be at a place that didnt put academics
first and UVM definitely does that. You always want to win and do it
the right way and I think thats going to happen at UVM with many
of its athletic programs.