November 14, 2013

Cornell Dismisses DeLuca as Coach

from Staff Reports | Twitter

DeLuca (right) on the sidelines against Hobart in the spring. Assistant Matt Kerwick will serve as interim head coach for Cornell while a national search is underway.
© Greg Wall

Ben DeLuca has been removed as the head coach of the Cornell men's lacrosse team, with Matt Kerwick named as the interim head coach for the Big Red, according to several sources and a press release posted on the Cornell media relations website Thursday.

The motive for the firing has not been made clear, but Cornell's fall schedule was suspended by the school's athletic department in September after a hazing incident that involved "coerced consumption of alcohol by underage freshmen." The team practiced in the fall but cancelled all external competition, including scrimmages against the Iroquois Nationals and at the Capital Lacrosse Invitational, a fundraiser for the Boiardi Foundation.

In an email sent Thursday morning, Cornell Athletic Director J. Andrew Noel Jr. informed alumni, parents and friends of the lacrosse program that DeLuca had been removed and Kerwick, who has previously served as a head coach at Hobart and Jacksonville and was an assistant for the Big Red in 2013, would be take over.

A national search for DeLuca's permanent replacement will begin immediately, Noel said.

"Our team members, especially seniors in their final year representing Big Red Lacrosse, must receive our continued support and commitment as they compete to leave their mark in program history," Noel said in the email. "Every difficult challenge provides an opportunity to grow, sometimes in unforeseen ways. Resilience, optimism and unity are critical at this time and the umbrella of staunch support, consistently provided by our alumni and friends, provides a foundation that is needed and appreciated very much."

DeLuca guided the Big Red to the NCAA semifinals in 2013, falling to eventual champion Duke. In three years as head coach, Cornell went 37-11 under DeLuca and 16-2 in Ivy League play. All told, DeLuca has been at Cornell for 17 years. He played at the school under longtime coach Richie Moran, then served as an assistant for two years before a brief hiatus. He returned as an assistant in 2002 and served under Jeff Tambroni until his departure for Penn State in 2010, after which DeLuca was named head coach.

Rob Pannell, the 2013 Tewaaraton Award winner from Cornell, said Thursday that he and other alumni did not support the decision to fire DeLuca, and it came as a shock to many.

“This comes as a complete to surprise to me, the alumni, the current team and all those involved with Cornell Lacrosse,” Pannell said. “I am sure Cornell and the Cornell athletics department has reasoning for the decision, but my opinion and the opinion of many others is there is no better person for the Cornell head coaching job than Ben DeLuca. It is an incident like this that will change a program forever.”

Former Cornell midfielder JJ Gilbane, a 2012 graduate of the school, also said the news came as a surprise to he and other alumni he had spoken with Thursday.

“Ben was a passionate leader who lived and breathed Cornell Lacrosse,” Gilbane said. “As unfortunate of an event that this is, I am confident that coach Kerwick, coach Milliman and volunteer coach [Mark] Wittink will keep the team focused on the task at hand and will lead them in this difficult time.”

Chris Langton, a former Big Red midfielder and 2012 Cornell graduate who recently made the U.S. World Cup bobsled team, echoed Gilbane's sentiments.

"The administration's decision to relieve Coach DeLuca from his position came as a surprise to me. During my four years at Cornell I never experienced anything but a safe and positive environment," Langton said. "Coach DeLuca is a tremendous coach whose leadership from the time he was a player has continued to better our program. I am saddened when I think of Cornell Lacrosse without Ben DeLuca at the head. There is no better man for the job."

Check back with as this story develops for more information as it becomes available.

Full press release from Cornell Media Relations:

Cornell University announces the dismissal of men's lacrosse head coach

Matt Kerwick to lead program as national search begins

Earlier today, Meakem Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education Andrew Noel informed Ben DeLuca that he has been dismissed from his position as head coach of the Cornell Men's Lacrosse Program. While Cornell University recognizes the contributions DeLuca has made to our nationally ranked lacrosse program as a player and assistant coach, it is the university's belief that new leadership is required to best serve our students and to continue our lacrosse program's decades-long tradition of excellence.

Also effective today, Matt Kerwick, who served as assistant coach for the 2013 season and is a former head coach for several successful programs, will take over as the interim head coach for our men's lacrosse team while Cornell conducts a national search for a new head coach.

Noel issued this statement:

"This was a difficult decision, but our students are our first priority and there is no doubt now that new leadership is required.

"Matt is a proven leader and has held head coach positions at Hobart and Jacksonville University. I have great confidence in Matt's ability to lead the team in this time of transition. We are also confident in our ability to attract an exceptional head coach to lead the team forward in the tradition of Cornell Lacrosse."

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