To the Editor:
While many of us have expressed our frustration and disappointment at the news that Ben DeLuca will no longer be the Head Coach of Cornell Men’s Lacrosse, the purpose of this letter is to thank Ben for his leadership and commitment to Cornell University over the last 17 years. We have witnessed firsthand Ben’s dedication to the school and the program he loved. For decades, the Men’s Lacrosse program has been a gold standard in the Cornell athletic department and Ben has been an integral part of that as a player, an assistant coach and head coach.
We have been DeLuca’s classmates and teammates. We have been his co-captains, his alumni supporters and boosters. We have watched him coach our own children. We played for him as our assistant coach, and eventually, as our coach. Undoubtedly, the goal of a collegiate head coach is two-fold: One, to prepare your players for success on the field, and two, to prepare them for professional and personal success as responsible men maximizing their individual potential, while serving as positive ambassadors for a university athletic program. Surely on both counts, as former player Rob Pannell ’13 said last week, there could have been no better man for the job.
Athletically, the results under DeLuca’s stewardship have been undeniable. In his three years as head coach, the Big Red has won two Ivy League titles and his teams have twice advanced to the NCAA tournament with one appearance at the Final Four. DeLuca currently has the highest active winning percentage in all Division I. DeLuca has coached 12 All-Americans, five of whom were First Team All-Americans, 19 All-Ivy selections, five Academic All-Americans, five Academic All- Ivy, 10 All-Ivy Tournament selections, one Ivy League Rookie of the Year, two Ivy League Players of the Year and one Tewaaraton Award recipient.
As a mentor of young men, DeLuca’s accomplishments are even more impressive, albeit on a more private scale. You cannot see young men maturing in highlights on ESPN, and you do not read about it in the newspaper. But a coach’s role as a mentor is every bit as important. Under Coach DeLuca’s leadership, the lacrosse team has been a fixture in the community. The team’s commitment to giving back in terms of time and fundraising is unparalleled by any team at Cornell. For years now, the Cornell Lacrosse team has set an example on campus that other teams strived to emulate, in the classroom, on the field and in the community. DeLuca stressed the importance of giving back to those who come out and support the team on game day. Through various endeavors such as Big Red Readers, the 21 Run, Dream Factory of Central New York Lacrosse Clinic, and cleaning Schoellkopf after Homecoming, among other things, the Cornell Lacrosse team has made its presence felt in the Cornell and Ithaca communities under DeLuca. And as with everything he did, Coach DeLuca always led by example, his tireless efforts as a member of the Executive Committee for the Mario St. George Boiardi Foundation since its inception providing just one example among many.
DeLuca has also applied his inexhaustible focus and energy toward the post-collegiate success of his many players, a role he excelled at as much as his more public on-field accomplishments. For the impact he has had on our children and friends, we owe him our greatest debt. From when DeLuca started at Cornell to now, Cornell has become a winner again. This makes all of our lives better and more fun each spring. We see each other more, personal and professional relationships flourish, and our pride in Cornell and our lacrosse program has been at an all-time high.
As Cornellians, it is hard not to focus on the unfortunate loss that this decision brings for the program we love, and the University we all remember so fondly. But as alumni who have felt DeLuca’s impact on ourselves and seen it on those behind us, we can only say that some lucky program is about to be changed in an infinitely positive manner. We have no doubt that DeLuca will win a national championship. It is just too bad that it will not be for the Big Red.