MEN’S LACROSSE | Coach DeLuca ’98: Reasons for Dismissal ‘Still Remain Unclear to Me’

November 21, 2013 1:06 am0 comments

By AKANE OTANI

The University’s silence over its dismissal of former head men’s lacrosse coach Ben DeLuca ’98 has outraged dozens of alumni and parents alike, who insist the community deserves transparency. But the man at the center of the debacle, Ben DeLuca ’98, says he has no better an idea than anyone else why he was fired.

“For reasons which still remain unclear to me, after 17 years as a student-athlete and coach in the men’s lacrosse program at Cornell University, I will be parting ways with the University and move on to the next chapter in my professional career,” DeLuca said in a statement released Wednesday by law firm Dinsmore & Shohl. It was the first time DeLuca spoke publicly since the University announced he had been dismissed last Thursday.

Administrators have said little about why DeLuca was fired, citing the need to retain confidentiality over personnel issues. In an interview with The Sun Wednesday, President David Skorton said the dismissal was “not just based on one incident.”

Tina Chou / Sun File Photo

DeLuca has a long history at Cornell, having played on the men’s lacrosse team as an undergraduate before rising to the ranks of head coach three seasons ago. (Tina Chou / Sun File Photo)

In other statements, University officials have said the decision was “difficult” but necessary for the sake of Cornell’s students and the lacrosse program.

“Our students are our first priority, and there is no doubt now that new leadership is required,” Andy Noel, director of Athletics and Physical Education, said in a statement after DeLuca’s dismissal was announced.

For some alumni, the administrators’ words fell on deaf ears. Failed to be placated by the statements the University has published, many wrote in online comments to The Sun that both the lacrosse program and longtime Red veteran DeLuca deserve better.

Some, noting that DeLuca’s dismissal came two months after the lacrosse team was investigated and temporarily suspended for allegedly hazing its freshmen, said they felt DeLuca had been unfairly punished by the University. Cornell administrators have not drawn any connection between the hazing incident and DeLuca’s dismissal.

Others blamed parents of freshmen on the team, accusing them of overreacting to the alleged hazing incident and of pressuring Cornell Athletics to dismiss DeLuca.

Underlying many alumni’s sentiments was frustration over the University losing a man they say is not only an outstanding athlete but also the leader Cornell lacrosse needs.

“There could have been no better man for the job,” more than 150 alumni wrote in a letter to The Sun’s Editor Wednesday. “For the impact he has had on our children and friends, we owe him our greatest debt.”

The alumni thanked DeLuca for his dedication. They thanked him for helping propel the Red’s program to Ivy championships and NCAA tournaments. Most of all, they said, they thanked him for his mentorship — adding that “some lucky program is about to be changed in an infinitely positive manner.”

DeLuca did not touch on his dismissal beyond his statement’s first sentence. But he turned around and thanked the “friends, parents, students, alumni and mentors” who he said reached out to him and his family in the last few days.

He also expressed his pride of the lacrosse team’s student-athletes, saying, “I am extraordinarily proud of the way in which you have conducted yourselves during your time at Cornell.”

“I wish you all every happiness and success for this season and into the future,” he said. “My pride in watching you mature as young men is second only to that of your parents and family. It has been an honor to have a window into that part of each and every one of your families and lives.”

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