When I came to the University of Dallas as a student-athlete three years ago, I already understood that athletics wasn’t necessarily the most popular thing amongst students at UD. However, I was also under the impression that it was something the administration was looking to promote and grow. In fact, a year and a half ago when I talked to Dr. John Plotts for a story about the athletics budget, he said he believed athletics was an essential part of the overall development of the student, as well as a means to promote school spirit.
The university has had some tangible results to support their goal of growing athletics. When I spoke to recruiting coordinator Matt Grahn a year ago, he said that the overall admissions goal for the university was 400 students, and that he wanted at least 100 of those to be athletes.
To the school’s credit, they have achieved those numbers, but now the athletics department may face a new challenge in growing their presence in the school, not only with recruiting new athletes, but possibly with keeping the ones already here.
The athletics department’s main problem is that they are having a difficult time hanging on to coaches. Entering the 2017-18 school year, the athletics department features four new head coaches for women’s basketball, soccer, volleyball and men’s golf, two coaches entering their second season for both men’s and women’s lacrosse, as well as a new athletic trainer.
This is not some sort of anomaly. Volleyball coach Kelli Trautmann is the fourth in the last five years. Women’s basketball coach Lacey Burns is taking over for Greta Grothe, who was here for just two years. The women’s lacrosse program, which began in 2004, is on its eighth head coach, while the men’s lacrosse program, which began in 2011, is on its fourth.
The problem doesn’t stop with coaches leaving, as this past summer both three-year head athletic trainer Robb Leibold and assistant athletic trainer Corrie Bober, who’d been here a year, left as well.
While the sheer volume of staff members leaving seems concerning, another concern has to be the jobs they’re leaving for. Both Leibold and former volleyball coach Prentice Lewis took high school jobs.
While sometimes a high school coaching job can be a lot less demanding and stressful than a college job, one must wonder if the quality of these high school jobs is better than the coaching positions at the University of Dallas. This is not offered as a statement of fact, but simply a speculation.
The results of the seemingly revolving door of athletics staff is not yet known. UD has never been known as a Division 3 powerhouse, and that’s not necessarily its goal. However, it stands to reason that massive turnover in coaches and trainers will lead to a turnover in student-athletes. Furthermore, it’s more difficult to recruit without stability.
There’s no clear solution, but if UD wants to be serious about its athletic programs, there must be more stability from the head coaching positions.