After 21 seasons of leading the men's lacrosse team, Head Coach Tom McCabe officially announced his departure from the Department of Athletics on Monday. McCabe will stay through the spring season, and plans to join the Peace Corps with his wife next year.
McCabe's announcement did not come as a surprise to Ward, as McCabe has been talking about a switch for quite a while.
"We thought this was a good time to do it while we still have our energy," said McCabe.
"If you know the family, the sense of service and going into the Peace Corps is not surprising at all. I think that they think they can have another phase in their life," Ward said.
"I think it's time for new blood to come in and take over the program," said McCabe. "But I still remain committed to Bowdoin and the lacrosse program, and I always will. I'm invested in its future," he added.
McCabe coached at Bridgton Academy for 11 years, and entered the Bowdoin program as assistant coach in 1990, becoming head coach in 1991. Under McCabe's leadership, the team has won two ECAC championships (1993, 2001), a NESCAC title (2008), and received its first NCAA tournament bid and win (2008). Of over 175 active D-III men's lacrosse coaches, McCabe has the 11th most wins, and the 16th most in D-III history.
When you talk to his players, however, they attribute McCabe's coaching success to his supportive personality and warm-hearted character more than his tally of victories.
"He knows the X's and the O's, understands fundamentals very well," said captain Matthew Egan '12. "He's an old school guy. Every year I've been here, we've been to the NESCAC semifinals, and that's his coaching. But when I think of Coach, I think of his generosity as a person. He honestly cares about everyone on the team as though they're a son of his."
"The best part of the job is the relationships," said McCabe. "Working with young people, watching kids come in as 18-year-olds and leave as 22-year-old adults—That's what I work for."
McCabe's devotion to his relationships is apparent in every level of his work. One of the toughest tasks for him since he announced his exit has been calling his recruits, and assuring them that although he is leaving at the end of the season, he is still committed to their Bowdoin applications.
Egan commented, "McCabe recruits great guys. First and foremost, he wants guys who are going to gel with the team and be cohesive with the team. Players honestly trust him. Maintaining a team harmony, at the D-III level, is probably more important."
Jeff Ward, Bowdoin's athletic director, is looking forward to working with McCabe to hire the next head coach, and expects high competition for the position.
"At our level, it really takes a special person, because you have to be a great coach and a great educator," said Ward, "and we don't really compromise on either side. The number of people who can actually do that is pretty small."
"Sometimes people get kind of stuck on the D-I and D-II thing," he added. "Those are labels that have very deceptive meanings. The reality is this is one of the top 30 men's lacrosse jobs in the country."
Amidst McCabe's impressive stats, Ward mentioned that the coach's consistent, compassionate performance is what will define his 22 years at Bowdoin.
"To be honest, the wins and losses of the past kind of blur," said Ward. "It's the person I'll remember."