Ivy League in transition

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An avid memorabilia collector, Dartmouth interim coach Mark Graupe has a baseball signed by Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

He’d like to add President Barack Obama to boost its value.

“I’m probably just getting here a year or two too late,” Graupe said. “You know how it is in New Hampshire. All the candidates come here.”

Actually, Graupe arrived at the prestigious university in Hanover, N.H., right on time. He didn’t have to stump for the Big Green job or make any promises to a search committee. His first season as Dartmouth’s assistant coach became his first one as an interim coach after he was promoted Thursday to take over for Terry Dunn.

Jerome Allen knows what Graupe is going through.

Allen had recently retired from a professional career that led from the NBA to Europe before he broke into coaching as an assistant under Glen Miller at Penn, the school where he became a star. Allen’s apprenticeship with the Quakers lasted about three months before he became interim coach once Miller was fired after a winless start.

The big-time coaching carousel and win-at-all-cost mentality had smacked the Ivy League.

Dunn’s resignation last week and Miller’s dismissal in December had as much to do with frayed relationships with their players as the miserable records that sunk the teams to the bottom of the standings. Suddenly, player revolt is the in-thing in a league known more for its academic excellence than deep NCAA tournament runs.

“It sounds the way people are talking that it is a little unprecedented that it just doesn’t normally happen in the Ivy League,” Graupe said by phone Friday. “I don’t think anybody expects in the Ivy League for a coach to step down.” reported last week that Dartmouth players threatened to boycott taking the court if Dunn remained as coach. Dunn resigned after five-plus seasons and the Big Green off to a 3-10 start.

Big Green captain Robby Pride vehemently denied the team ever discussed a boycott.

“It’s not true at all,” he said. “We spoke with the AD and it was all very professionally handled. The details we can’t really talk about, but there was no threatening of a boycott. No one said, ‘Oh, we won’t play unless he’s gone.’ That’s not true at all.”

Dartmouth interim athletic director Bob Ceplikas declined on Friday to discuss exactly why Dunn resigned, but said players had expressed “reasonable concerns” with the direction of the program.

“I can’t speculate to Terry’s reasoning,” Ceplikas said. “We’ve always been very candid with him about what kind of feedback we’re getting from players. That, I’m sure, was among the factors he considered in making a difficult decision.”

Ceplikas kept the feedback confidential, though he did praise Dunn’s character. Ceplikas said Dunn made an “agonizing decision” and he denied that the players forced his hand to ask him to quit.

“By no means do the inmates run the asylum,” Ceplikas said. “If we made decisions every time some players were disgruntled about something, that would be no way to run a railroad.”

Graupe also refused to discuss tension between the former coach and his players.

“If we start looking back, we’re going to get negative and we don’t need that,” he said. “We’ve had enough drama.”

Pride did confirm that former team captain Jarrett Mathis quit after a falling out with Dunn. Pride endorsed Graupe’s promotion.

“We’ve had a good week of practice already and it’s just a whole new attitude, a lot of energy,” Pride said.

Graupe, Michael Brown and Tim Lane all coached the team in Dartmouth’s loss against Harvard. The Big Green (3-11) play again Monday against St. Francis (N.Y.).

“Stuff like this happens,” Graupe said. “Something happened somewhat similar at Penn. You have to move on.”

The Quakers (1-11) had been on the rocks ever since Fran Dunphy left in 2006 after 17 seasons and nine NCAA tournaments. Miller, hired away from fellow Ivy League school Brown, was never fully embraced by fans and alumni because he was an outsider replacing a school legend. Miller’s brutally blunt reviews and late-night film sessions at times rubbed the Quakers the wrong way. Guard Zack Rosen said there was a “disconnect” among Miller and the Quakers.

Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky said Allen has unified fans and is restoring the Penn basketball tradition.

“He’s brought the kinds of things I was hoping for,” Bilsky said. “The enthusiasm, the attitude, bringing people together, recreating the identity and getting people to embrace it.”

Bilsky said midseason coaching changes wouldn’t become a trend in the Ivy League.

“I don’t think we should take anything from it other than athletic directors have to make those kinds of decisions,” Bilsky said. “You have to weigh all the variables and you try to be fair.”

Both athletic directors said they will conduct a national search at the end of the season and the interim coaches could be candidates.

For now, Allen and Graupe are focused on wins, not dwelling on the past.