The amazing story of the suspension of Florida State University women's soccer coach Mark Krikorian for resting players - opposed to playing them in the ACC Tournament - has created quite a buzz in the collegiate athletics and college soccer circles.
The Florida State women’s soccer team will play Saturday for a berth in the quarterfinals of the N.C.A.A. tournament, having made a provocative tactical decision that raised intriguing questions about sportsmanship, integrity and the autonomy of a coach to choose a lineup.
When Florida State lost its opening A.C.C. match on Nov. 3, conference officials ruled that the Seminoles had compromised the integrity of the tournament. Krikorian was suspended for a game, Florida State was fined $25,000 and the university was denied a $15,000 reimbursement for travel costs.
“F.S.U.’s action is disrespectful to our teams, players, coaches and fans,” John Swofford, the conference commissioner, said in a statement. “It undermines the purity of the competition that a conference championship deserves.”
Krikorian, a highly regarded coach who has guided the Seminoles to the national semifinals three times and to the title game once, has received support from many colleagues. Some argue that no rule was seemingly broken and that the A.C.C.’s decision undermines the ability of a coach to judge what is best for a team.
From a strategic standpoint, Krikorian’s decision has so far paid off. The Seminoles (15-5-1) won their first two N.C.A.A. tournament games at home and will play a third game in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday against Marquette (16-4-3).
Florida State’s action is not uncommon in sports, said Mikki Denney Wright, the women’s soccer coach at Minnesota. She noted that athletes in swimming, wrestling and track and field incorporate tapering into their training and do not try to peak for, or even participate in, each competition.
“I thought it was innovative,” Denney Wright said of Krikorian. “If a conference regulates that you have to play these players or those players, I think that’s a slippery slope. Ultimately, it’s a coach’s call. They have to trust us. I don’t know any other place where a conference has stepped in and said you have to play the starters.”