Last night, Marquette announced that head women's basketball coach Terri Mitchell would not return in that capacity for the 2014-2015 season.
While the official statements from Mitchell, interim university president Rev. Robert Wild, S.J., and interim athletic director Bill Cords are all largely positive about both sides of the relationship, it seems to me that there is a clear message being sent from the athletic department.
Mitchell finishes her 18 year run as head coach with a record of 348 wins and 215 losses. But her teams went 52-44 in the three seasons since her last NCAA tournament appearance, her only NCAA appearance in the last seven seasons. Marquette qualified for the WNIT each of the last two seasons, going 1-2 with the win coming this season against Indiana State. What may have caused a need for change in the athletic administration is the change in the Big East. No longer did Marquette have at least two looming horrible losses to powerhouses Connecticut and Notre Dame, but the Golden Eagles could not manage a better finish in league play than 11-7.
This is what I'm taking away from Mitchell's departure: Marquette has decided that being middle of the road in team sports is no longer acceptable.
In 2008, Marquette volleyball was 10-15 and locked in to their fourth losing season in the last seven. Pati Rolf was shown the door with four matches to go, and Marquette went out and hired Bond Shymansky, who had the highest active winning percentage in the ACC at the time. When Shymansky elected to take the head coaching position at Iowa this offseason after leading MU to the first three NCAA tournament appearances in program history, Marquette hired Ryan Theis to replace him. Theis has only been a head coach for six years, but he had taken his Ohio Bobcats to four NCAA tournaments in that time span, and has the 18th best active winning percentage in the country, which was actually better than the 20th best mark that Shymansky had when he was hired by Marquette.
In 2005, Marquette men's soccer had finished their third straight season without a winning record. Steve Adlard was let go, and Marquette went and snagged Louis Bennett from across town at UW-Milwaukee. Bennett was coming off five straight NCAA tournament appearances, five straight regular season Horizon League titles, and four straight Horizon League tournament titles. While it took him a few years to get his feet under him at Marquette, he has led his Golden Eagles to their first two Big East regular season titles, their first Big East tournament title, and two straight NCAA tournament appearances, including the program's first ever NCAA tournament win.
I'd make more examples, but I can't. Markus Roeders has positioned women's soccer as a nationally relevant program, Steve Wojciechowski has been assigned the task of putting men's basketball back in the NCAA tournament after their first miss in the last nine seasons, and Joe Amplo and Meredith Black have their men's and women's lacrosse programs on an ascendant path in their second seasons.
This is what Marquette is now: A school and athletic program that expects to win in whatever team sport you want to talk about. Terri Mitchell wasn't delivering on that across the board intent of the university, and so, the university moves in a new direction.