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Keep the coach, build the program

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, April 4, 2006

This letter is concerning the decision to not renew Steve Bender’s contract as head basketball coach at Saint Mary’s. The decision to not renew his contract has come as a great shock to many people inside and outside of the Saint Mary’s community. The basketball program has had its ups and downs (more downs than ups) in the past years on and off the court, but this year was different. The team was happy and competitive; it had its best season record-wise and was positive about last season and the upcoming one. The program finally had a strong foundation to build on. I am by no means implying that Bender was the single factor in the above successes, but he was a factor that strongly impacted those successes. He was – and still is – committed to his team as well as his assistant coaches even though the athletic department chose to not renew his contract.

Saint Mary’s athletic department has a “revolving door” for coaches. A coaching position at Saint Mary’s is only offered as a part time position which does give some reasoning why the department cannot keep coaches. This does not apply to why Bender’s contract was not renewed – he is a teacher and does not need another full-time job. A coach is also never guaranteed any more than a one year contract. This allows the athletic department to cut the coach after one season. If the athletic department has a hard time keeping coaches because of this reason, why would it not renew the contract for one who created so much success for the basketball program?

How can any sport build a program if it keeps getting new coaches? Why would Saint Mary’s athletic department not want to renew the contract of a coach who has coached a team with the best record it has ever had, stayed positive, created a strong bond among teammates and gotten them enthusiastic about next year? There were no reports of rule breaking or unethical incidences among coaches or players that could justify the decision of the athletic department. Why is the athletic department taking away a good thing? If Saint Mary’s has to rebuild a program every year it is going to get harder and harder to get competitive recruits to come and play for the school. If nothing changes and the athletic department has the opportunity to do away with coaches as they please then the athletic programs will never attract competitive athletes to play for the school and raise the bar. The athletic department is working against its idea of making athletics more important at Saint Mary’s. Athletes want to be a part of a strong competitive program, and until Saint Mary’s builds a program it will stay in the rut it has been in for many years.

Jessica Binhackjunioroff-campusApril 3