In 2000, Joanne P. McCallie left the University of Maine bound for the big time, Michigan State. In seven seasons with the Spartans, she emerged as one of the best coaches in the nation, winning 149 games and going to the NCAA tournament five times, including the 2005 national championship game.

This week, the Brunswick native left Michigan State to take over one of the premier programs in the nation, Duke. It’s a time for her fellow Mainers to stick out our chests and tell everyone we knew her when. One of the best basketball coaches this state has ever produced, male or female, is now sharing a chalkboard with Mike Krzyzewski.

I wish nothing but the best for McCallie, I understand that Duke is, as she called it, her dream job. But I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in her at the same time.

Rumors had been circulating around East Lansing for quite a while that McCallie would be leaving the program. But less than a month ago, she signed a new five-year contract with Michigan State that increased her base pay by about $100,000 a year, and everyone was relieved that the woman who had brought the program into national prominence would be staying.

Following McCallie’s announcement she was leaving (issued through a press release and not a press conference), MSU officials didn’t seem very surprised or angered by her sudden change of heart. But it’s not the university that is getting shafted. In fact, the coach is required to pay MSU $465,750 for leaving before the end of her old contract.

This past Wednesday, McCallie addressed MSU’s players. “Many…emerged from the meeting 15 minutes later with tears streaming down their faces,” according to the Lansing State Journal.

“Obviously, everybody is shocked and really upset,” senior forward Alisa Wulff said.

Unfortunately, McCallie isn’t the first college coach to leave her players in such disarray. Nor will she be the last. Barely a week goes by where we don’t hear about a football or basketball coach who has bolted for greener pastures.

It used to be that these coaches would leave after running a program into the ground with NCAA rules violations. Now, they’ll bail for ego – more money, more prestige – convenience – capitalizing on current success, losing a lot of players to graduation or the draft – or virtually any fanciful notion they can come up with.

Their players, meanwhile, must stay put. If they want to transfer, they’ll have to take a year off. Their recruits are held to the letter of intent they signed.

You know, a contract, which, when it comes to coaches like McCallie, isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.

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