Since the University issued a brief, vague statement announcing the dismissal of Ben DeLuca ’98, head coach of the men’s lacrosse team, no additional information has been released. Furthermore, University and athletic communications have said they have no plans to elaborate on the situation moving forward. We understand the administration has policies regarding the information they will release about employee firings. But lingering questions about this particular high-profile dismissal have led to speculation and confusion among both the press and the general public. We expect Cornell to explain the termination of a decorated member of our community, especially if it would shed light on the University’s efforts to end hazing.
DeLuca’s dismissal as head coach comes two months after the lacrosse team was sanctioned for an alcohol-related hazing incident. Because the University has failed to confirm or deny that the two events are connected, we are all left to wonder. Athletic teams have notoriously been omitted from the University’s sustained efforts to combat hazing and high-risk drinking. If the administration’s decision to relieve DeLuca of his duties is indeed a response to the team’s transgressions, that action is deeply relevant to the broader campus dialogue on hazing. In taking action against DeLuca, was the University holding him accountable for his team’s behavior? We don’t know. The University won’t tell us.
If, in fact, DeLuca’s dismissal was a simple case of ineffective coaching, explanation is still necessary. Men’s lacrosse has had three winning seasons under DeLuca’s leadership, and the team’s win/loss record have been consistent with those from previous years. There are only two months until the beginning of the nationally competitive team’s game season. Shrouding this abrupt termination in secrecy is disrespectful to the Cornell lacrosse community — both past and present members — who are baffled by the loss of a respected coach.
DeLuca, who has served Big Red lacrosse for years as a player, senior captain, assistant coach and head coach, has been described by his former players as a dedicated alumnus who “lives and breathes Cornell lacrosse.” Cornell has a duty to the team members, their parents, supportive alumni and the wider campus community to be more transparent about this situation. A cited desire to “support our students” and to continue the lacrosse program’s “decades-long tradition of excellence” is the closest to an explanation the University has offered, and plans to offer, on the matter. We want to know more.