BANGOR – A defiant Cindy Blodgett defended her coaching career at the University of Maine during a news conference Thursday, saying she was asked to resign last week before being fired by Athletic Director Steve Abbott on Tuesday.

Blodgett said she was not given the time she thought she had been promised to turn the team around, and was blindsided by a sudden focus on wins and losses.

Abbott cited the team’s 4-25 record this season and a lack of progress during Blodgett’s four years as the predominant reasons that the former playing legend’s tenure as coach had to end. Her four-year record was 24-94.

Blodgett met with reporters in Paddy Murphy’s, an Irish pub in downtown Bangor, to make her first public statements since being dismissed.

Her mood shifted from defiant — saying at one point she was “fired without cause” — to more lighthearted.

“I’m disappointed,” she said. “Anger doesn’t help. I’m disappointed we didn’t have more leadership and didn’t have more of a commitment from the administration.”

Blodgett said she was called into Abbott’s office at 9 a.m. on March 25 and was asked to resign 10 minutes later because she had created a divide in the locker room. Two players left the team last month.

She said that message changed by Tuesday’s firing — to one that centered solely on the team’s record.

“Steve found out our team in fact wasn’t divided,” Blodgett said. “(Players) went to meet with him on their own, and all of a sudden that wasn’t the best excuse anymore for the reasoning of my dismissal. So a couple of days later it became about wins and losses.

“Yes, I was (fired without cause). I told Steve Abbott and my lawyer told the University of Maine I would not resign. That goes against everything I have tried to instill in the players. You don’t give up. You don’t stop fighting. I was not going to send the players and the state that message.”

Contacted later Thursday, Abbott confirmed the sequence of events described by Blodgett but would not confirm specifics of what was said in the meeting, citing personnel issues.

He did say there were multiple reasons for Blodgett’s firing.

“When you make a decision like this, you don’t base it solely on any one factor, but the overriding factor in this case is the performance of the team,” Abbott said. “I really respect the effort and the work that Cindy did with the team, but at the end of the four-year period we were last in our conference. And so that, more than anything, is the overriding factor behind the decision.”

Blodgett said she wishes the administration had taken into account the time it takes to rebuild a program and the support she got from the team’s nine remaining players.

Blodgett inherited a team that had gone 13-15 the previous year under coach Ann McInerney.

Rachele Burns, a point guard from Gorham, said her team was stunned and banded together Tuesday.

“A meeting was called by Coach Blodgett Tuesday morning where she informed us what was happening,” Burns said in an email. “The team was shocked to hear the news of what could potentially happen. She told us, no matter what she will always be there for every one of us.”

In essence, Blodgett said, she felt blindsided by a sudden focus on the team’s record.

“No one has spoken to me in the past year about wins and losses. I think that’s a real important piece,” she said. “When our season ended, I actually was proactive. I requested a meeting with Steve Abbott and wanted to talk to him about our program. … Nothing was said to me from a wins-loss perspective.”

When asked if the 24-94 record wasn’t cause enough for her firing, Blodgett said, “I think it would be if I was fired with that (being) stated. I was fired without cause.”

In the course of the news conference, Blodgett brought up deficiencies in the university’s athletic program, saying it must fund women’s basketball better if it truly wants it to stand among its premier sports.

“I know the women’s basketball program over the past 15 years has always been termed as one of the premier sports on campus. It should be treated that way,” she said. “They need to put more money into the program and support it more.”

A handful of supporters crammed into Paddy Murphy’s to hear Blodgett’s remarks.

“This is a heartbreaker,” said Maria Baeza, president of Friends of Maine Women’s Basketball. “Changing the culture of the team takes time. She inherited a group that needed (work). She felt like the culture was set now. It’s heartbreaking. I was here when she was recruited.”

Blodgett came to UMaine from Lawrence High School in Fairfield and put the team on the national scene in the 1990s. She set 20 school records from 1994 to 1998 and led the team to four consecutive NCAA Division I tournaments.

She said the pride she felt in the program is tainted right now.

“I really believed if there was anyone who would stand by you as you build a program, it would be the place you wore the uniform,” Blodgett said. “That wasn’t the case.”

She said she doesn’t know what her future holds, but pursuing legal action is not in her plan.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]