Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Yesterday's announcement that Cindy Blodgett has been fired as head coach of the Maine women's basketball team came as a surprise to many folks in the state. Not because of the results on the court, but because the University has been rewarding mediocrity for years. For once, the university finally held someone accountable for taking a step back.
Yes, Maine isn't an SEC or Big East football school, so coaches are always going to get more leeway here than they would somewhere else. We also live in a society where people always want coaches fired, but a record of 24 wins and 94 losses is really tough to defend, even with the built-in "Oh, no one wants to come to Orono" and "The program was in bad shape when she got here and she needs time" excuses that are constantly thrown out when it comes to UMaine. The University is continuing to try and raise funds for a renovation of the Memorial Gym and the Alfond Arena, don't you think that if the teams on the court, field and ice were having consistent success that the money would have already been raised?
This move was a long time coming for this athletic department. While I was surprised it was Blodgett and not men's hockey coach Tim Whitehead or men's head basketball coach Ted Woodward (both of whom have failed with ALOT more talent than Blodgett ever had), it still sends a message to the rest of the head coaches that the time for excuses has ended, because either Woodward or Whitehead being fired would have sent a message without the detractors of the move being able to complain that a historic face of Maine basketball took the fall for the athletic department's overall failures. While Blodgett has done fantastic things as a player for the state of Maine basketball-wise in the high school and college levels, facts are facts: she was not qualified to run a Division I women's program. She was given a two-year contract extension before last season, and two of the top three girls high school players (Kayla Burchill of Deering and Nicole Taylor of York) in this state are going to Vermont, not Maine, and that in itself is this program's biggest issue: keeping the most talented kids in-state in lieu of letting them go to in-conference competitors (see Dumoulin, Brian for a hockey example).
Being a great player does not always translate to success on the bench or in the front office (see Baylor, Elgin; Thomas, Isiah; McHale, Kevin for examples), and it was shown here in all it's glory. It's not a knock on Cindy as a person, and it's very possible she can use this experience to improve in her next gig. The fact of the matter is, whether you're talking about the shadows of Joanne Palombo, John Winkin, or Shawn Walsh, the bar has been set high. It's time to reach the standards that have been already been set instead of lowering the bar to fit the excuse of the day. UMaine-Orono can be a special place, and it has been before. Hats off to Steve Abbott for sending a message that the time for excuses is over, and that the time for results has come.
Update: Blodgett has planned a press conference for Thursday.