Shirk excited for opportunity at Washington College
Jeff Shirk knows he will encounter the upcoming question – why would a coach make the transition from Division I Virginia Military Institute to Division III Washington College? – and he already has an answer.
"The honest response is that it’s a much better job from a financial standppoint with how they support the program, from alumni support, all the way down the checklist," Shirk said Wednesday from his office on the Washington campus in Chestertown, Md. "So it was definitely a career move, and that’s not to say that VMI was a bad job. But in coaching, I think you’re always trying to move up the chain and in the lacrosse world, Washington College is a much better job than VMI. That’s nothing against VMI. So it was definitely a good career choice and for my family."
Shirk, who had spent the previous four years as the Keydets head coach, succeeds J.B. Clarke, who resigned on May 12 and was named the new head coach at Division II Limestone Monday afternoon.
Shirk said he was recommended to Washington athletic director Bryan Matthews by Navy coach Richie Meade, and Shirk said he was interested in the position as he talked to Matthews before Memorial Day.
"It was very high right off the start," Shirk said of his level of interest. "But I will say that as soon as I stepped on campus for my interview and saw everything about Washington College and had a chance to meet a bunch of the alumni and the players and had a chance to speak with the new president, that level of interest skyrocketed."
Shirk inherits a Shoremen team that went 4-10 this past season, has missed three of the last four NCAA Tournaments, and lost to Gettysburg in five straight Centennial Conference Tournament finals since last winning the championship in 2003.
Still, Shirk, who guided VMI to a 13-46 record, said his priority is to revive a Washington program that captured the NCAA title in 1998.
"We want to win, and we want to win the right way," he said. "I think everybody – whether it’s alumni or administration – at Washington College is on the exact same page where I am and understands that it’s going to be a process. We’re going to have to work very hard, but we expect to win and I like that. Washington College is not asking the lacrosse program to win without giving it any of the tools that are needed to win. They’re saying, ‘Here are the tools. Let’s go do it.’ And that makes me very excited about where we want to take this. I want to win sooner than later, but I know it’s going to be a process. But that’s something that we’re definitely going to attack and hopefully bring back the Washington College of old."