Ben DeLuca isn't in the NCAA men's lacrosse coaching record book as he only holds three seasons of head coaching experience. His legacy in Ithaca, however, appears deeper than mere wins and losses.
Over 150 signatures accompany an open letter published in The Cornell Daily Sun today, a letter that thanks DeLuca for his almost two decades of service to the Big Red lacrosse program and expresses disappointment over the university's decision to fire the former program navigator. There are tons of notable names that have affixed their signature to the letter (including former Cornell head coaches Jeff Tambroni and Dave Pietramala), but it's the inclusion of names and families that aren't immediately recognizable that give strength to the message:
While many of us have expressed our frustration and disappointment at the news that Ben DeLuca will no longer be the Head Coach of Cornell Men’s Lacrosse, the purpose of this letter is to thank Ben for his leadership and commitment to Cornell University over the last 17 years. We have witnessed firsthand Ben’s dedication to the school and the program he loved. For decades, the Men’s Lacrosse program has been a gold standard in the Cornell athletic department and Ben has been an integral part of that as a player, an assistant coach and head coach.
We have been DeLuca’s classmates and teammates. We have been his co-captains, his alumni supporters and boosters. We have watched him coach our own children. We played for him as our assistant coach, and eventually, as our coach. Undoubtedly, the goal of a collegiate head coach is two-fold: One, to prepare your players for success on the field, and two, to prepare them for professional and personal success as responsible men maximizing their individual potential, while serving as positive ambassadors for a university athletic program. Surely on both counts, as former player Rob Pannell ’13 said last week, there could have been no better man for the job.
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As Cornellians, it is hard not to focus on the unfortunate loss that this decision brings for the program we love, and the University we all remember so fondly. But as alumni who have felt DeLuca’s impact on ourselves and seen it on those behind us, we can only say that some lucky program is about to be changed in an infinitely positive manner. We have no doubt that DeLuca will win a national championship. It is just too bad that it will not be for the Big Red.
This is exactly why Cornell's continued adherence to its position not to comment on the decision to fire DeLuca is so difficult to understand: There are stakeholders in this situation outside of the Cornell administration, athletic staff, and current players; these stakeholders have made physical, financial, and/or emotional investments in the Big Red lacrosse program and are without a workable reason for the dismissal of DeLuca (the face of the program for all intents and purposes). Head coaches at the college level aren't necessarily seen as fungible goods for many, and in the absence of strong communication detailing issues that indirectly impact their existences, a vocal response is an inherent residue resulting from the vacuum created by silent administrators. These outside stakeholders in the Cornell situation have taken the high ground in expressing their gratitude for what DeLuca meant to Cornell lacrosse, but they are still without guidance as to why their program has charted a new course.