"Right now we have challenges in our program," coach Borton said after the team lost its fourth player since the season ended.
Liz Podominick left the Gophers women's basketball team on Tuesday, purportedly to focus on her track and field career.
The university will not renew the contract of assistant coach Dave Stromme, the second change of the day in a turbulent offseason.
Four players have left the team in the 12 days after the season ended with six losses in the final eight games, including an NCAA tournament first-round game. That leaves a program that two years ago reached its first Final Four and a year ago played in its third consecutive NCAA tournament Sweet 16 with only three returning experienced players. Six seniors are gone from last season's team as well.
"Right now we have challenges in our program," Gophers coach Pam Borton said Tuesday night.
"Those are some of the things we've been dealing with these last days," Borton said.
She called the decisions by Podominick, Jamie Broback, Brittney Davis and Lauren Lacey to quit the team "individual situations" about which she declined to discuss specifics.
When asked what those individual decisions mean collectively about her program and her relationship with her players, she said, "Right now, when you even have one kid leave your team you need an evaluation period as a program." She attributed the departures to a roster-management issue in which she tried to play too many players.
"We'll never have a roster that big again," Borton said. "Everybody wants to play, and they're all talented kids. It's impossible to make every single kid happy with playing time. That's the most important reason they want to attend a school.
"I want those kids [who left] to be happy. I want kids who want to be in this program, who will put their whole heart and soul in this like the kids in the past have here."
Podominick intends to concentrate on her throwing career with the Gophers track and field team and aspires to reach the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her roommate is Broback, who the school announced Monday had left the team.
Podominick said in a statement released by the school that she'll never forget her Gophers basketball experiences. "But I have to consider my future, and if I truly want to be an Olympian, I have to begin the proper training toward that goal," she said.
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi did not return a telephone call Tuesday evening seeking comment about the program.
At season's beginning, Borton said her team had established itself as one of the naton's "elite." Now, suddenly, the program appears in danger of turning back the calendar six seasons, when the Gophers went 8-20, including one Big Ten victory, and couldn't persuade the state's best prep players to stay at home.
"Absolutely not," Borton said, when asked about that perception. "We believe in our ability as coaches. It's not like we don't have any talent. We have the nation's 14th-ranked recruiting class coming in. We've got other kids chomping at the bit."
Returning guard Kelly Roysland now is the team's only senior leader, and the only other players who saw significant playing time last season are Natasha Williams, who became the starting center as a sophomore, and guard Emily Fox, a freshman last season.
Liz Podominick Ø
|Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez||0||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: J. Masterson||6|
|Arizona - LP: W. Miley||1||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: R. Nolasco||2|
|Cincinnati - LP: A. Chapman||2||FINAL|
|Philadelphia - WP: A. Bastardo||3|
|Houston - LP: L. Harrell||0||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke||1|
|Los Angeles - LP: K. Jansen||2||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: L. Avilan||5|
|Tampa Bay - WP: M. Moore||3||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: C. Tillman||1|
|Boston - WP: J. Lackey||5||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: P. Hernandez||1|
|Milwaukee - LP: K. Lohse||2||FINAL|
|St. Louis - WP: J. Gast||4|
|NY Mets - WP: S. Rice||4||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: K. Fujikawa||3|
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Peavy||2||FINAL|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Vargas||6|
|Kansas City - LP: K. Herrera||3||FINAL|
|Oakland - WP: J. Blevins||4|
|Washington - LP: D. Haren||4||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: A. Cashner||13|
|San Francisco - LP: B. Zito||0||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: J. Nicasio||5|
|Detroit - LP: J. Ortega||8||FINAL|
|Texas - WP: R. Ross||11|
|Red Bull New York||1|
|Sporting Kansas City||1||FINAL|
|Real Salt Lake||4||FINAL|