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April 17, 2001 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-17

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68 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Golf swings for NCAAs

THE

ODD

MAN

OUT

By Courtney Lewis
Daily Sports Writer
After taking the lead in the Kepler
Intercollegiate last Saturday in calm con-
ditions, the Michigan men's golf team
thought it had finally beaten its curse.
It was wrong.
The Wolverines found themselves
soaking wet and shivering in the final
round Sunday in Columbus and slipped
to third place.
That's been the story all year.
Michigan started the fall season with
three top-five finishes and an individual
win by Scott Hayes in the Inverness
Intercollegiate. The success continued
into the spring when Andrew Chapman
took medallist honors in the Wolverine
South Invitational and led the team to
victory.
But then Mother Nature started to tor-
ment the Wolverines. With the weather
swinging from snow to rain and back to
snow, the team couldn't practice on the
course until halfway through the spring
season. Michigan showed the effects of
that lack of quality practice time and
nearly knocked itself out of the NCAA
Tournament with two consecutive
mediocre tournaments.

Although they're still barely clinging
to their postseason chances, the Wolver-
ines have finished in the top five in their
last two tournaments and it appears
they've finally recovered from their mid-
season slump.
Michigan now has two chances left to
play its way into the NCAA Tourna-
ment. It heads to East Lansing for the
Fossum Invitational April 28-29 to face
the other District IV teams that have yet
to lock up one of the six spots in the
NCAA Central Regional. The Big Ten
Championships will be held the follow-
ing week, with the winner receiving an
automatic Regional bid.
"Right now it's getting more narrow
to the point where we're going to have
to win the Big Ten Championships,"
coach Jim Carras said.
That will be a challenge, but with the
weather finally starting to cooperate,
Michigan feels better prepared going
into each tournament and has regained
its confidence.
"We're going into this with an upbeat
attitude," Carras said. "Right now we're
on the road that I wanted to be on five or
six weeks ago."
The Wolverines just hope that road
leads to the NCAA Tournament.

By J. Brady McCollough Daily Sports Writer

Hey all you M
U-
1 g~ndaW$s

It's Christmas Eve of 1999, and
Scott Russell's family is gathered
together at his house.
The phone rings, and it's Fritz
Seyferth, Michigan's senior associate
athletic director. He asks Russell to
abandon his family gathering and come
down to his office.
Russell, the men's and women's club
water polo coach, is expecting to get an
early Christmas present from the Michi-
gan Athletic Department - a promo-
tion. He expects to become Michigan's
first varsity women's water polo coach.
"I was elated," Russell said. "I
walked out of the door on cloud nine. It
was Christmas Eve, so of course I
thought he was calling me to offer me
the job."
But when Russell met with the offi-
cials of the Michigan Athletic Depart-
ment on that fateful day, there was no
welcoming committee, no contract to
sign, and no one to congratulate him.
They informed Russell, the man who
had devoted his life to Michigan water
polo, that his alma mater had decided to
look elsewhere to fill the coaching posi-
tion.
Hundreds of letters written by Rus-
sell's supporters to the Athletic Depart-
ment were not enough. Ten years of
tireless devotion to the program without
one cent from the University was not
enough (club programs receive no fund-
ing from the University).
"I was devastated, absolutely devas-
tated," Russell said of the news. "Every-
body who knew me knew that coaching
Michigan water polo was one of the
biggest things in my life. I lived in Ann
Arbor my whole life, grew up there,
graduated from U of M. I even moved
back to my old neighborhood."
The timing of the decision is what has
been criticized most by members of the
program - not the eventual hiring of
Amber Drury-Pinto as Michigan's head
coach.
"I felt like the way they went through
the whole process was not taken care of
very well," said Eric Lancaster, who
Russell coached for four years on the
men's club team. "You don't call some-
one on Christmas Eve and tell him that
he's not going to get the job. That's not
very professional."
Michigan hired Drury-Pinto because
of her experience as a player and coach
in California, which also meant that she
had the connections to recruit the top

players from the west coast. Russell did
not have the reputation or the recruiting
capabilities that Drury-Pinto could bring
to the program.
"I knew Michigan was into big
names," said Delia Sonda, junior cap-
tain of the women's team. "He is a good
coach, but I knew they could get people
with bigger names than him."
Russell assumed that the reason he
found out on Christmas Eve was so that
he wouldn't have to read it in the news-
paper the next morning -- he thought it
was courtesy. But the hiring of Drury-
Pinto was not officially announced until
the middle of January, calling the timing
of the Athletic Department into ques-
tion.
"Let's just say I won't ever be
exchanging Christmas cards with (for-
mer Athletic Director) Tom (Goss) or
Fritz," Russell said.
Although Russell was obviously dis-
appointed that he didn't get his dream
job, he didn't become bitter, and did not
turn his back on his team or his beloved
University. He even continued to coach
the team in 2000 knowing that he would
not be the varsity coach, demonstrating
his commitment to his players and the
program he started in 1988.
"Too much of my life was devoted
toward Michigan water polo for me to
be bitter to them," Russell said.
After forgiving the program, Russell
made the ultimate sacrifice to remain a
vital part of Michigan water polo. Once
Michigan announced Drury-Pinto's hir-
ing, Russell asked her if he could stay
on as a volunteer assistant coach -
unpaid once again.
"For me, just to even be on her
coaching staff, at least I could still be a
part of the program that I built from the
ground up," Russell said. "I didn't need
for her to give me a salary. I just wanted
to stay in contact with the program. I
had hoped that I could help Amber in
her transition from California to Ann
Arbor."
But Drury-Pinto, an established and
respected coach nationally, declined
Russell's offer. Coming into Canham
Natatorium with Russell's presence
hanging over her head would not have
made her transition any easier.
In crunch-time situations, Drury-
Pinto wanted to make sure that her play-
ers knew that she was the coach of their
team.
"It's a new program and we're going
in a new direction," Drury-Pinto said. "I
just felt like we needed to start brand
new. We were going to be carrying over
players (from the club team) and I did-
n't feel it would be good for anybody to
have him carry over with us."

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"She didn't feel comfortable having
me on the coaching staff," Russell said.
"It was at that point that I felt I was real-
ly being turned away from the program
for good."
After being turned away for the last
time, Russell's life took a new turn -
in the direction of West Lafayette and
Purdue.
"I never wanted to leave Ann Arbor,
but I realized that coaching water polo
is really what I want to do," Russell
said. "When I didn't have an opportuni-
ty to do that in Ann Arbor anymore, I
needed to go some place else. I wanted
to stay in the Midwest."
Russell is currently the coach of the
men's and women's club water polo
teams at Purdue, where the athletic
department is planning to make
women's water polo a varsity sport
within the next few years. Russell
accepts the possibility that he could be
turned away from the Purdue varsity
coaching position just as he was at
Michigan.
"I'm hopeful that if the team goes
varsity, I'll have more success than I did
at Michigan," Russell said. "There may
be an applicant who comes along and in
their mind, is a better fit. I hope not - I
hope I'm the right guy for the job."
Today, Russell is happy with his job
at Purdue, but the transition to life in
West Lafayette has not been an easy
one.

Courtesy of Candice Russell
Former Michigan club water polo coach Scott Russell, who started the program in
1988, now sports the black and gold of the Boilermakers.

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"The difficulty is that I am still closer
with the U of M athletes than the ones at
Purdue," Russell said. "I still feel very
close to the athletes that I left behind,
but I know that with time here at Pur-
due, I'll establish the same kind of rel
tionships."
Russell's accomplishments as Michi-
gan's women's water polo coach are
very impressive. He pioneered the pro-
gram in 1988, and just one year later,
Michigan won the Big Ten title, starting
a string of Il-consecutive Big Ten
championships. At one point, Russell's
Wolverines rolled off 127-straight victo-
ries over their conference opponents.
1995, Michigan finished the season
the No. 5 team (varsity or club) in the
nation.
But these accolades and records are
not why Russell will be remembered as
a great coach. His dedication and love
for the sport, along with his ability to
form "relationships" are what made him
so special.
"He was a friend and a coach," said
Christy Lilley, a senior captain of th
year's team. "He loves the sport, h
loves bringing it to people, especially
women. It's rare to have a male coach
so interested in getting females
involved. If you love something you
might as well share it."
And share it he did. In his 12 years as
coach, he shared his time, heart and
money with his players. Being a varsity
coach would only be icing on the ca
for this pioneer of Midwestern water
polo.
"It was not in my wildest dreams that
a kid from the Midwest would be a var-
sity water polo coach," Russell said.
"You don't really start thinking about
varsity status the first day that you take
the job as a club coach. All you're really
doing is providing an opportunity for
athletes to compete in the sport that they
love. And for me, it was an opportuni
for me to coach the sport that I love."
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Poes
Food,
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Or Exercise
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