Two UMass men’s lacrosse players reinstated

Two of the eight University of Massachusetts men’s lacrosse players suspended and dismissed from the team last February have been reinstated to the University.

In addition, senior Jim Connolly and sophomore Ryan Marcus have been added to the team’s roster for the 2009 season and have begun practicing.

The pair was cut from the Minutemen, along with six of their teammates, for a violation of team rules. Marcus was arrested for his alleged role in an assault at 304 North Pleasant St. on Feb. 1, 2008, along with former teammates Christian Haggerty and Christopher Casey.

University officials declined to confirm if Connolly’s suspension was related to the off-campus incident.

UMass coach Greg Cannella said both student athletes sought reinstatement. Each student petitioned the Dean of Students Office to return to good standing with the University without Cannella’s help.

Both players took credits at other institutions during the fall semester, but sacrificed a year of eligibility per NCAA regulations.

As a sophomore, Connolly was the leading goal-scorer for the Minutemen in 2007. The senior was not arrested, but was suspended from the University for a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

For Marcus, 2009 will mark his first appearance in a UMass uniform. The South Hadley native was a lacrosse high school standout prior to committing to the Minutemen.

However, Marcus has a trial date pending on May 6 at Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Mass., along with Haggerty and Casey.

But as with any student who is reinstated after a suspension, further conduct violations could result in permanent expulsion.

The other four did not petition for their return and have enrolled at other colleges.

‘A couple guys did call me to apologize about the situation,’ Cannella said. ‘But I haven’t spoken to any of them since earlier in the fall.’

For Cannella, the reinstatement of Connolly and Marcus provides a chance to bring closure to the circumstance and continue rebuilding the program.

‘We have an opportunity to re-grow what was lost,’ he said. ‘We lost a lot in terms of perception of who we are on campus and the community.’

For Connolly and Marcus, it marks a unique chance to make amends for past mistakes, according to Cannella.

‘This is a great opportunity to show everybody who they really are,’ he said. ‘Regardless of the mistakes they made in the past, they have a chance to right that and to represent the program in a first-class manner.’

The coach added that their teammates have actively embraced their return to the field, as both players remained in contact with the team over the past year.

‘They both came in very remorseful and apologized to the team,’ Cannella said. ‘I felt that those guys who wanted to be back here, deserved the opportunity to be back here.’

Cannella added an unusually large amount of freshmen this season to fill the holes in the Minutemen’s depleted roster.

Michael King can be reached at [email protected].