Die-hard follower or casual observer, Terps fans who watched Saturday's 7-5 loss to unseeded Notre Dame were subjected to a loss similar to Maryland's loss to Michigan State in March Madness.
No, the lacrosse team didn't lose on a buzzer beater. But after everything in the tournament bracket broke their way, the Terps showed up sloppy and unimpressive, perhaps overlooking their current opponent while daydreaming about their path to the National Championship.
No. 3 Maryland didn't have to face No. 6 Princeton, as Notre Dame had surprisingly upset the Tigers. And in the Final Four, the Terps wouldn't be playing No. 2 Syracuse after unseeded Army shocked the Orange in double overtime.
For Maryland to reach the National Championship, it would have played the No. 14, No. 11, and No. 7 or No. 15 seed to get there. Yet the Terps couldn't get it done against a Notre Dame team that Maryland had beaten 7-3 a year ago.
So it comes as little surprise when news broke on Sunday that head coach Dave Cottle, who was in the last year of his contract, will not return to Maryland next year.
Cottle was the school's third-winningest coach, finishing his career at Maryland one shy of the 100-win club. Had Maryland beaten Notre Dame on Saturday, he would have been one of only four coaches -- Virginia's Dom Starsia included -- to win 100 or more games at two different schools.
Still, for a team that has been in the USILA (1934-1970) and NCAA (1971-present) National Championship game 26 times, winning 12 titles, Cottle's four years in a row without a Final Four appearance just wasn't cutting the mustard.
Maryland isn't tolerant of mediocrity. In fact, Cottle ended his nine-year tenure as the Terps' second-worst coach from a winning percentage perspective, despite winning 10 or more games in eight of his nine seasons.
The Terps are just one of seven teams to ever win a National Championship. Lacrosse is more top-heavy than just about every other sport in college athletics. Only four teams (Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and UVA) have won in the last 18 years.
Maryland has knocked on the door several times, though, reaching the Final Four 19 times since 1970. But under Cottle, Maryland got there three times, failing to reach the National Championship every time.
The top candidates that Maryland is expected to pursue include the following (in no particular order):
Gary Gait, Syracuse women -- The Michael Jordan of lacrosse, Gait was the NLL's MVP six times, and one of only two players to ever win the award more than once. He's a former Maryland women's lacrosse assistant coach and has compiled a 47-14 record at Syracuse, including an Elite Eight and two Final Fours. He has lacrosse gear named after him, which means that his name alone could keep Maryland's top talent in-state.
Paul Cantabene, Stevenson -- Nobody has transformed a program like Cantabene, who should be the Terps' top target. Stevenson University, formerly all-women's Villa Julie College, finished 19-2 this year. Cantabene is 79-27 in six years at Stevenson, inheriting a program with nearly no historical success. In the last two years, he's reached the Final Four in Division III both times.
John Tucker, Washington Bayhawks (MLL) -- The Bayhawks' head coach, Tucker spent time coaching Maryland-area high schools in Annapolis, Baltimore and Towson. The 2007 MLL Coach of the Year has valuable connections in the area.
Scott Marr, Albany -- Marr is 85-69 in 10 years at Albany, but has put the Great Danes on the map nationally. Before Marr took over in 2000, Albany had just one 10-win season since 1970. He led the Great Danes to 10-win seasons in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Jeff Tambroni, Cornell -- He's compiled a 73-20 record since 2005, including finishing as the NCAA runner-up in 2009 and a Final Four team in 2010.
John Tillman, Harvard -- Though he's just 20-19 as a head coach in three years at Harvard, he has led the Crimson to moderate success. Harvard was 6-6 this year, but lost three games by a single goal, and Tillman played for Baltimore in the NLL and was an assistant coach at Navy for 11 seasons, so he knows the local landscape well.
Jim Berkman, Salisbury -- A stunning 358-35 in 22 seasons on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Berkman may not want to leave at this point. After all, if he hasn't left yet, why would he now? In his time at Salisbury, Berkman has won eight Division III National Championships.