SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Coaches come. Coaches go. The window of opportunity for coaches to make a move up the ladder rarely stays open for very long.

Timing is everything. While success helps, it does not guarantee better opportunities. The higher up you climb in the coaching ranks, the greater the competition for a finite number of positions.

Tabor College and other small colleges will always face challenges in finding and keeping quality head coaches. When they are fortunate enough to hire a Tim McCarty, there’s a strong possibility that they won’t be able to keep him for long. Coaches are usually hired knowing that it’s common to be fired, or resign under pressure, and that’s no different at Tabor. It’s not every day that a coach leaves on his or her own terms.

It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected, that Tabor lost McCarty to a bigger football program. Fortunately Tabor was able to have the smoothest possible transition by hiring Mike Gardner, a chief assistant to McCarty during the remarkable turnaround of Tabor football.

It’s not likely that Tabor will ever be able to compete financially with the bigger schools, but the financial picture at Tabor is equally or more important than at KU or KSU.

Show me a coach who has trouble fielding a competitive team at Tabor and I can probably show you a coach who has trouble recruiting and keeping the kind of student-athletes that are a good fit at the school.

And when a significant number of the student body is in athletics, a loss of student-athletes hurts enrollment, which in turn hurts the bottom line.

Losing 10 or 15 student-athletes in a college of 450 students hurts a lot more than losing 25 or 50 students in a school of 20,000 students.

Coach McCarty demonstrated that attracting and keeping good football players at Tabor doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. However, it’s not an easy road.

We’ll never know if McCarty could have continued his recent success over the long haul.

We’ll never know if he would have won a KCAC championship in football.

Given the many talented athletes who are graduating this spring, chances were good that he wouldn’t have won a championship at Tabor next fall.

Coaches like Bethany’s Ted Kessinger and Tabor’s Don Brubacher are certainly the exception to the coaching carousel. Both demonstrated long-term success in their respective sports. One is left to ponder how aggressively they sought a more prestigious coaching position, or what would have happened if they had moved up the coaching ladder.

But the fact is, sometimes coaches who seem ready and deserving to make the next step aren’t given the opportunity.

Of course, moving up the coaching ladder brings a new set of pressures and challenges. Is it worth it? The answer to that question may help determine whether a coach stays or leaves.

Hillsboro can’t offer everything a bigger city can, but one thing we can do is to be a good neighbor to our coaches and encourage and support them.

On the surface, McCarty’s move to the next level and Gardner’s move to a head coaching position makes sense. McCarty successfully turned a losing football program around and Gardner was one of the coaches who helped him do it.

I’m happy for both men. While I was saddened to see McCarty leave, I wish him all the best.

I’m also pleased that McCarty brought Gardner to Tabor, and that Gardner chose to remain at Tabor and assume the head job while he was being considered for other head coaching positions or possibly going with McCarty as an assistant to East Central Oklahoma University.

Recruiting and keeping good coaches is similar to the challenge that Tabor and other small colleges have of recruiting and keeping quality faculty.

To its credit, Tabor has done a remarkable job of finding and keeping many faculty who find enough fulfillment in Tabor’s mission to keep them from pursuing opportunities elsewhere.

In my humble opinion, Tabor is fortunate that when opportunity knocked, Gardner answered. Odds are they wouldn’t have found a more qualified coach.

Speaking of odds, what are the odds that McCarty and Gardner will succeed in their new roles? I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I wouldn’t bet against them.

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