Written by Joe Kleinsasser Wednesday, 06 February 2008 17:28
On the surface, all that was left to complete the storied history of Don Brubacher’s tenure at Tabor College was the final chapter. Considering that Don and Janette recently finished building a new home, it was generally assumed they would start and finish their careers in Hillsboro.
All bets are off. Now that Brubacher’s duties have been reassigned and he is athletic director in name only, the final chapter is yet to be written.
Here’s what we know. Brubacher gave his heart and soul to Tabor College for the past 32 years, most notably as a teacher, men’s basketball coach and more recently as athletic director.
His men’s basketball teams won the KCAC title 10 times and two tournament championships. On five occasions his teams qualified for the NAIA Division II National Tournament; advancing to the final 16 two times. Brubacher’s KCAC record is an enviable 293-132 and 373-284 overall.
Tabor only had a handful of highly successful basketball teams pre-Brubacher. He took a mediocre-to-middlin’ program and turned it into a dynasty by KCAC standards. And his basketball teams represented the college admirably, serving as good ambassadors for the school.
Brubacher was named KCAC Coach of the Year nine times in men’s basketball and once in women’s soccer. Three times he was named NAIA District 10 Coach of the Year in basketball, and once he was Fellowship of Christian Athletes Kansas College Coach of the Year.
Brubacher also was athletic director during Tabor’s most successful athletic accomplishments in history. The football team won two KCAC championships and its first post-season game; the men’s and women’s basketball teams were winning conference titles and playing in the national tournament; the volleyball team was routinely winning conference championships; and the track teams were among the best in the KCAC.
But the road to “happily ever after” has hit a detour. Returning from a fall sabbatical, Brubacher learned he has other duties, and that if he wishes to continue at Tabor, he will accept the reassignment.
Tabor is doing its best to make the reassignment look like a promotion, but those I’ve talked to, especially alumni, don’t buy it.
Whatever happens, Brubacher has the respect of many colleagues.
Joe Zimmerman, athletic director at Friends University, said, “In working with Don Brubacher over the past five years, I have always appreciated Don’s insight and understanding of sport within the KCAC.
“As a member of the executive committee of the KCAC, I felt when we deal with conference business or issues, Don is able to shift his thoughts from a coaching perspective to an administrative perspective. This can be difficult for a person to do who serves as both a head coach and an athletic director.
“Don’s tenure and experience in the KCAC is helpful in our continued efforts to move the KCAC in a forward and positive direction.”
Tabor volleyball coach Amy Ratzlaff, who was hired by Brubacher, said, “I consider it a privilege having worked for him. I have a lot of respect for him and for pouring himself out for Tabor.”
Former Tabor football coach Mike Gardner said, “My experience with Don Brubacher was nothing but positive. He was instrumental in helping me to grow as a Christian coach. He gave me some great insight in terms of organization and administration within a program.”
And former baseball coach John Sparks said, “Don has meant a great deal to me in my development as a coach. He was an outstanding mentor to me in my six years at Tabor. During a time when I was trying to find my identity as a young coach, Don supported me and took the initiative to help in my maturation.
“In many instances, Don provided me with concrete advice on everything from how to teach physical and mechanical aspects of the game to dealing with various team situations from a Christian perspective. I owe a great deal to Don in my development as a coach and a Christian role model.”
The reasons for the reassignment are unclear. I have my opinions, but they are only that—opinions. Without concrete information, people will continue to speculate that there is a personality conflict or philosophical differences.
Brubacher’s many supporters, believe that his passion, commitment and record should count for more than “Thanks, but you’ve been reassigned.”
Tabor’s leadership needs to take a very deep breath before deciding that it can recruit a new athletic director who is as qualified and experienced as Brubacher.