Morning Jac: Colorado College's Quandary
Guy Van Arsdale took the Jacksonville job on Wednesday. As far as the reverberations go, the move probably won't register much on the lacrosse Richter scale. A move from Division III Colorado College – Van Arsdale's old haunt – to Jacksonville, a third-year Division I program, won't move the needle too much when it comes to buzz. The move does, however, present Colorado College with an interesting dilemma.
Should the college go out and seek a well-connected Division I assistant who can continue to raise the profile, but may be using the program as a stepping stone like Van Arsdale did? Or should the Tigers seek out a current Division III head coach or lower-profile top-tier assistant in hopes that they will settle down in Colorado Springs and stay with the program for the long haul? Colorado College should have the option to choose either path because they should draw interest from both types of candidates when they finally open the search (assumably next spring after hiring an interim for the 2012 season).
The school is still on the fringe of the lacrosse world, but its stock is quickly rising. CC now has access to an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA tournament – something they cashed in last year – and should continue to do so if they can quickly fill the holes after the SCAC splinters in 2013. Regardless of which teams are added, the Tigers will be the odds-on favorites to continue winning the bid for the foreseeable future. This is an important factor for a prospective coach.
Colorado College has always been a draw for New England prep school kids because of the school's reputation and location, but now Colorado, the state, is one of the hippest spots in the lacrosse landscape. Most of this is due to the arrival of Bill Tierney. By signing on at Denver, the legendary coach has given the state, and the west in general, a level of legitimacy it didn't have in the past. The fact that Tierney was able to guide the Pioneers to the national semifinals so quickly only bolsters the cred of the sport in the Mountain West, even at a school like Colorado College, which has very different admissions standards and demographics. Throw in the fact that Colorado has been churning out top quality high school players for over a decade now, and CC has the potential for even more growth.
Further, CC has a history of being a launching pad for prospective D-I coaches in the past. Steve Beville, the current coach at Cortland, parlayed his 10 seasons with the Tigers in to a job with Vermont. While not a D-I gig, Van Arsdale's predecessor, Dave Zazzaro, is now the new head coach for the start-up program at Rhodes (Tenn.). When you leave Colorado College, other jobs are certainly waiting.
So we know that the applicant pool will be large, and stacked with viable candidates from all divisions and leagues. So, again, the question: what is the right type of coach for Colorado College at this time?
It is unlikely they'll find someone of Tierney's stature, or a comparable version from Division II or Division III, who is looking to settle down at CC. In the past, Colorado College has only offered one-year contracts to its Division III coaches (CC is Division I in ice hockey and women's soccer). This isn't necessarily unique to CC, but it will make a high-powered coach think twice before leaving an established program without some kind of long-term guarantee. As such, the Tigers will likely be looking for a D-I assistant who can quickly pick up where Van Arsdale left off, with the assumption he will be eyeing his next job while improving the program.
Regardless of who they chose, Colorado College is in a great spot. While I'm sure they would have liked to see Van Arsdale continue his work, the Tigers enter the hiring process with the cachet of spring-boarding their last coach into an attractive D-I spot – likely over some very qualified top division assistants and head coaches. They are also sitting on geographical and competitive goldmine. It may take a year for the official announcement, but Colorado College is going to get a very good coach.