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TOP NEWS    Thursday, May 08, 2003         Subscribe!
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Cats introduce new boss



By Patrick Garrity
Free Press Staff Writer

Bob Corran likes challenges. The University of Vermont athletic department promises plenty.

The man charged with raising the "competitive metabolism" of Catamount teams was introduced Wednesday as the school's new director of athletics, greeted by a room full of varsity coaches and high hopes.

Corran assumes leadership of a 22-team department faced with ongoing financial constraints, substandard facilities and numerous vacancies on its coaching roster. It also is a department eager to meet those challenges.

Catamounts coaches are energized by their inclusion in the grand plan of first-year president Dan Fogel for UVM's future.

"It was clear that athletics is a critical part of the president's 10-year vision," Corran said in his opening remarks at Wednesday's news conference at Waterman Building. "When I met the coaches and staff, I knew that ambition would be realized."

Corran, 54, arrives after a six-year run as athletic director at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he faced many of the same hurdles he will inherit at UVM. He succeeds Rick Farnham, whose 11-year tenure ends with his retirement June 30. Corran begins work June 16.

Fogel consistently has said athletics plays a major role in the university's future, serving as a vital conduit to the student body, the alumni and the community. The president's sweeping vision of the school in 2012 includes a 9,000-seat arena for hockey and basketball as well as new venues for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and softball.

Fogel's commitment to that vision can be seen in Corran's $140,000 annual salary. That's $55,000 more than Farnham made this year.

"His job is advancing the commitment to excellence in an athletic program that really prizes student-athletes, with the emphasis on student," Fogel said.

Corran shares his new boss' vision, referring to UVM as "a sleeping giant" athletically.

"It's been said that the athletic program is the front porch of a university," Corran said. "I think here at UVM, we have a very strong and stable foundation and there's lots of good wood. It's now time to build that porch."

He built a winning attitude in Duluth, a 14-team Division II program that fields Division I men's and women's ice hockey teams. Corran took over there in 1997 with the school mired in a fund-raising scandal left by his predecessor.

"Bob Corran came in and got us pointed in the correct direction," said Karen Stromme, who just finished her 20th season as women's basketball coach. "He's extremely gifted at bringing different groups together and getting them focused."

Minnesota-Duluth won 58 conference titles during Corran's reign. The women's hockey team is the three-time NCAA champion. The football team earned its first NCAA berth in 70 years. The women's soccer team won 15 games. The baseball team is the top seed in its conference tournament.

"He put UMD to the next level and made all of us expect more of ourselves than we ever had before," Stromme said.

That possibility invigorates Catamount coaches.

"I think the bar's been raised, and all the coaches like that," said Tom Brennan, UVM men's basketball coach.

"Just having the focus, the vision, the energy, the goals should help us all become a little more unified," said Nicki Houghton, field hockey coach and a member of the 11-person search committee that recommended Corran.

Corran's first assignment will be filling coaching vacancies. The women's basketball offices are empty after the departures of Keith Cieplicki and his assistants last week. The skiing, track-and-field and cross-country jobs remain open as well.

Many of the school's athletic facilities are inadequate or deteriorating. Patrick Gym is a 3,000-seat band box that UVM assistant athletic director Jeff Schulman suspects as a culprit in the school's failure to land the America East Conference men's basketball tournament next winter.

Gutterson Fieldhouse's last facelift was 13 years ago. The track is in such disrepair the school cannot play host to home meets. The lack of a turf field keeps spring teams indoors well into April.

The school's athletic budget is about $6.5 million, among the lowest in America East. Its coaches are among the lowest paid Division I coaches in the country.

Corran acknowledged these shortcomings, then said the pieces and people were in place to tackle them.

"It just really seems like the people want to be successful, and what they're looking for is somebody to facilitate that," he said. "That's always been a real attraction for me; I get a kick out of that.

"My general approach has always been, 'Let's not whine about our lot in life; let's get out and create what we want it to be.'"
Contact Patrick Garrity at 660-1868 or pgarrity@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com

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