February 26, 2003: Sports

Sports Web Exclusives! P-nut Gallery column

Field hockey coach says goodbye
Beth Bozman built Princeton program, heads to Duke

By Paul Hagar ’91

Photo: Beth Bozman helped put Princeton among college field hockey’s elite. (Beverly Schaefer)

When Beth Bozman arrived at Princeton in 1988, the field hockey team had already tasted success with Ivy League titles in 1981 and 1982. But that was just a prelude to the elite level to which Bozman would lead the team during the next 15 years. In that time, there would be eight N.C.A.A. tournament berths, four N.C.A.A. Final Four appearances, and a record nine consecutive Ivy titles.

Bozman, who compiled an overall record of 188—73—6, resigned her post at Princeton on January 28 to take over as the head coach at Duke.

“We’re all sad that she’s leaving Princeton . . . It’s the end of an era,” said Kim Simons ’94, a Tiger field hockey and lacrosse standout who now coaches both sports at Georgetown. “Beth single-handedly built that program from not a whole lot into a national powerhouse through her hard work, determination, and incredible talent as a coach.”

In an emotional interview, Bozman expressed how difficult it was for her to decide to move. “The day I walk out of this office for the last time will be really hard for me,” said Bozman, holding back tears. “This has been my home. Since I made the decision, I’ve talked to a lot of alums. They’re all part of this dynasty, and that’s such a great thing.”

Bozman said the supportive atmosphere at Duke, the school’s balance between academics and athletics, and the five-year contract the school offered her all played roles in her decision. Princeton had offered a three-year deal, she said. She also will be allowed to bring her staff with her to North Carolina.

“Duke really recruited me hard. . . . They had to call me a number of times just to get me down there,” she said. “People say, ‘Oh, it’s the scholarships. Now you’ll be able to win national championships,’ but that never really entered into it. It’s that there they don’t have to justify winning. They feel very comfortable with the academic/athletic mix. Sometimes I feel like that’s in conflict here.”

Bozman cited the seven-week rule the Ivy League presidents approved in June 2002 as an example of that conflict. The rule calls for student-athletes to have a seven-week period during the academic year when they are barred from working out as a team or with their coaches. The policy grew out of concerns that varsity athletics were dominating the lives of student-athletes and that scholarship was taking a back seat.

“When the discussions arose over the new seven-week rule, my players felt insulted. They felt as though people were saying they couldn’t manage their own time — they needed someone to do it for them,” Bozman said.

Recognized as both a motivator and a teacher, Bozman has coached nine of the last 10 Ivy League Players of the Year and seven of the last 11 Ivy League Rookies of the Year. She has mentored 15 first team All-Americans, 27 All-Ivy League first team selections, and 11 Academic All-Americans.

“One thing that most people outside the program don’t realize is that she’s incredibly dedicated to her players. When I joined the team, I felt like I was part of something almost secret, and very special,” said Simons. “At the time, we were just trying to get some respect for the program, clawing ahead, and getting knocked back, and trying again. She was so passionate and unwavering – we had to follow her.”

At Duke, Bozman will compete within the country’s top field hockey conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes 2002’s national champion, Wake Forest. Princeton has begun a national search for Bozman’s replacement.

Last fall, the Tigers earned the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA championship tournament with its third-straight perfect 7—0 conference record. But Bozman believes Princeton will continue its success. “I told the team that if I died today, they would fight through the spring, fight through the fall season, and still win the Ivy championship,” she said. “So when I leave, they shouldn’t lose any of that fire. They’re the same players; we’ve all learned the same things.”

Her emotional attachment to the program she helped build will remain, Bozman said. “I’m not scheduling a game between Duke and Princeton for a very long time.”

Paul Hagar ’91 writes frequently for PAW.

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