MCLA Coaching Apocalypse … False Alarm

9 - Published June 6, 2011 by in Commentary

Across the MCLA universe, a collective amount of shock was unleashed following the firing of University of Colorado head coach Mike Ryder and assistant coach Taylor Short last week.  Everyone reported it, everyone had a take on it, and all were unanimous in their adjective of choice: shock.  Just go through the list, everyone was shocked.

CollegeLax – Colorado’s Ryder and Short Relieved of Coaching Duties

US Lacrosse (Jac Coyne) – “Shocked”: Colorado Fires Ryder

Inside Lacrosse (Danielle Bernstein) – Colorado Looks to Future Following Coach Mike Ryder’s Firing

412Lax (Peter Tumbas) – Mike Ryder Fired

Universal shock

After reading all the takes on Ryder’s firing, I just want to know:


Why the confusion? Why the shock? Why the uproar? Am I missing something?

We’re playing, coaching, and constructing programs within the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association.  Isn’t our creedo that of VIRTUAL VARSITY?  Do we want all the good and none of the bad?  Just let me know and I can join in on that train, but for now I thought we were living in reality.

If we are going to attempt to play, coach, and construct our teams and programs in emulation of NCAA varsity lacrosse programs, then isn’t it only logical that we will experience many of the same administrative burdens of those very same programs we seek to parallel?

Mike Ryder (center, black shirt) and Taylor Short (right, black shirt) were both fired by the CU club sports director, Kris Schoech

Jac Coyne from US Lacrosse and Tumbas from 412Lax both have follow-up articles on the Ryder firing as well:  Coyne’s “A New Bullet to Dodge“, and Tumbas’ “Jac Coyne’s New Warning for MCLA Coaches

Respectfully, I must disagree with their opinions.  In those follow-ups, they continue to have a very paranoid, walls-closing-in-on-MCLA-coaches feel.  As a three-year head coach in the MCLA, I’m not really sure why.  The Club Sports Director (CSD) is not a new phenomenon.  And personal disagreements and administrative conflict are nothing new either.  If you can’t play nice with administrators, maybe you shouldn’t be coaching an MCLA team?

Is it completely out of the realm of possibility that somewhere in discussions with the CSD for CU (Kris Schoech), it became clear that Ryder just wasn’t going to be a long-term solution in the position?  Or perhaps more likely, Ryder wanted certain freedoms for himself, his program, his players, or whatever that were not granted?  Ryder is only 26 years old, it’s not like we’re talking about a hardened veteran of administrative negotiations here.

Ryder was new to CU.  He didn’t have the benefit of an understanding of the political and administrative waters in Boulder.  And we know those waters can be murky at even the tamest of universities.  Is Ryder’s firing really the harbinger of new threats to the MCLA coach?  Or simply a blip on the radar screen of our continued growth and maturation as a league?

Ryder's inexperience may be more to blame than a rogue club sports director, we don't know

And isn’t it the ultimate irony that we bemoan the firing of a coach for an administrative lack of fit, immediately following the ascension of our flagship program to NCAA Division I varsity status?  Head coach John Paul at Michigan may be the greatest example of administrative and political clout in the MCLA.  He succussfully used his playing, coaching, and interpersonal prowess, leveraged with a wealthy alumni base and willing athletic department administration, to parlay his lowly club team into the finest example of an MCLA program in our league’s history.  Michigan is now on the verge of its inaugural varsity season.  Can we say with a straight face that Mike Ryder should be afforded the same administrative and political flexibility as John Paul?

Ryder and Short in happier times, following the 12-10 victory over Michigan in 2010

Let me be very clear: I’m not saying Ryder didn’t know what he was doing, I’m not saying he was a bad coach, I’m not saying that I know what is going on in Boulder.  I’m asking for us to wait.  Patience.  In the coming months we will be able to sort through more MCLA coach firings and/or resignations.  We will also be able to see what the Red Hot Buffs do to replace Ryder.

And perhaps, we will see shortly that the Ryder firing is more symptomatic of the schizophrenic Buffs, and less so that of a degeneration of administrative standards among club sports departments.  If we want to play the varsity game, we’ve got to play the varsity game.  That includes the administrative minefield that may have claimed Mike Ryder.

As we begin to more closely resemble our varsity counterparts in level of play, style, organization, and budgets, don’t be surprised if we begin to resemble them in administrative drama as well.

For all the uproar over the potential for a single club sports director to reign terror over a single club, what difference is that from a single athletic director with the potential to reign terror over a single varsity team?  As a league, we are striving to be VIRTUAL VARSITY. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.  We are subject to the same administrative and political burdens as our varsity counterparts.

Mike Ryder is only guilty of being the one to point that out.

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