Sunday commentaries: Mount Si AD hire, what the Boise State sports cuts should mean for all athletes nationally

Time for our commentaries on this Sunday, as we provide our thoughts on two of the biggest stories of this past week to affect Valley athletes.

Mount Si AD hire seems to be a good one, but there are two things we’d like to see
This week’s news regarding Mount Si High School’s hiring of a new athletic director came as a bit of a surprise, but considering some of what we have heard about new AD Chris Hill, this hiring we think can be a welcome one for the school. But for him to be successful, there’s a couple of things we’d like to see from him first.

Hill, in case you have not heard, was hired by Mount Si from Royal High School over in Royal City, in eastern Washington, and it was a bit of a surprise considering that we had heard rumors of the school looking perhaps towards an interim AD utilizing someone from inside the Mount Si staff. This would have followed our advice from the spring regarding this position in that we suggested such as a way to minimize potential negative staff and community reaction to a out-of-building hire in the event of COVID-19 related budget cuts to local schools.

Royal, as many know, is a 1A school, far smaller in size than Mount Si. So for Hill, he will be overseeing a program that has far more athletes and far greater resources, from a facilities, financial and community level, than he had at Royal. So the potential for him being overwhelmed is there, but as we also discussed this spring, the nice thing about Mount Si’s athletic program is that it’s fairly low-maintenance, with student-athletes doing well on the field and in the classroom, also staying out of trouble, and coaches who do their part to ensure those things and more. We would suggest Hill perhaps reach out at some point this summer and gather feedback from stakeholders to help in his transition, and if he does this, Mount Si student-athletes, their parents and coaches, fans and us here at the Journal are ready to assist him and help in that process.

But as we noted above, there are two things that we think can help make him successful here as Mount Si’s new AD.

1. Leave things alone and let people do their jobs: Part of having such a low-maintenance operation is that Mount Si, for years, has been well-run, with strong oversight of teams and the overall program. Coaches have done their part to ensure this, and with many of Mount Si’s key coaches being longtime figures in the school, they have developed respect and support from both athletes and parents and also from school administration, led by principal John Belcher. Granted, there are tasks that are required of any AD, and we expect Hill to perform those tasks to the best of his ability, but if he just leaves coaches alone to do their jobs and leaves parent boosters alone to raise money as they see fit for Mount Si athletics, his transition will be a lot easier. We as a Wildcat athletic community look forward to working with him as a partner, but if he tries to micro-manage things, that could rub people the wrong way.

2. Be a leader in Kingco, especially as it pertains to stronger non-conference scheduling east of the Cascades: With his experience handling athletics at high schools in eastern Washington, Hill we think can be a visionary and perhaps use his experience to suggest to Kingco Conference AD’s and principals during the course of this coming school year to advance an agenda that would see this league partner with leagues in eastern Washington on non-conference scheduling. One idea we would especially love to see as both leagues now have 2A, 3A and 4A components to them would be a partnership on scheduling between the Kingco and Greater Spokane Leagues. The GSL, as many know, has been a top-performing high school league in our state for many years in many key sports, chiefly football and basketball although there’s been success in soccer, baseball and softball as well from that league in recent seasons.

A partnership between the two leagues would expose Kingco athletes to quality competition helping them prepare for the league season here, and travel to Spokane, while it’s lengthy and could be financially and academically challenging for schools, can be solid team-bonding experiences helping student-athletes as well. And with planned renovations to Joe Albi Stadium that should see the outdoor venue return to its past glory as the premier outdoor stadium facility in eastern Washington, Kingco teams getting an opportunity to play there would be playing on a big stage, and it would be even bigger if games were televised over there, as there might be that possibility with the Spokane-based SWX television network.

So, in all, the opportunity for Kingco teams is enormous on a lot of levels with a partnership with the GSL. Such a plan might take, and should take, three-five years to fully put together, but we believe Hill’s experience with eastern Washington high school athletics can be a good vehicle to help advance such a vision, a vision that will be beneficial for Kingco schools and their student-athletes.

We welcome Hill to the Valley and Mount Si High School, and we hope for good working relations with him this coming school year.

Boise State’s cuts of baseball and swimming despicable and a warning to mid-major athletes and their families everywhere
The news came out of the blue at about 8:00 on Thursday morning via a Tweet from the Associated Press. Boise State University had cut baseball and swimming and diving. Say what?

Yes. Boise State restarted baseball only a couple of years ago after a 40-year hiatus, and was just beginning play this year, featuring North Bend’s Gavin Gorrell, only getting through 14 games before COVID-19 canceled the spring baseball season nationally, also ending Boise’s season. Little did any of their players, many of whom were out of town at college summer baseball obligations, know what was coming, but then players received word via email, phone and social media of the announcement, before the school had the decency to tell the kids in person.

It is the decision itself, and the way that decision was communicated to athletes, we find absolutely despicable. We likened it on social media the past few days to chicken excrement. Boise’s administration says it’s saving about three million dollars on these cuts, but also perhaps saving a lot more by not now having to build a new stadium for the baseball program, a stadium where land was already being prepared for its construction. But what Boise’s administration did for simply saving this amount of money, seemed criminal to us, and it also should serve as a wakeup call for all athletes and their families at mid-major “Group of Five” conference schools, especially men’s athletes. And that is in this current COVID-19 environment where schools aren’t making money due to no games being played, your program is truly not safe.

Stadium’s Brett McMurphy posted a Tweet on Thursday shortly after the Boise announcement was made, pointing out a number of other mid-major universities that have seen sports get cut due to pandemic-induced financial losses. And those numbers are expected to grow, and perhaps extend into major “Power 5” schools, if football can’t be played this fall, and it is looking more and more likely with every passing day that that is in jeopardy. Football revenue drives athletic budgets for all major colleges and universities, so if football can’t be played, then many so-called “Olympic sports” programs, such as soccer, gymnastics, wrestling and track and field, could be on the chopping block all over the country, affecting many athletes and their families, and also perhaps destroying those sports at the youth level, as parents begin to steer their young athletes towards sports which will provide greater college opportunity.

Athletes and especially their parents need to be aware of the current situation and get themselves educated on these issues. They also need to put pressure on appropriate state and local politicians and public health leaders to allow for relaxed COVID-19 related restrictions on sport activities so that athletics can take place this fall at the college and high school level. The NCAA is of no help in this situation – they really are at the mercy of state and local leadership; the primary reason their athletic recruiting is on shutdown at the moment is because college and university campuses around the country remain closed. Until that changes, it will not be safe nor equitable for schools to allow in-person recruiting. So really, it’s on athletes and their families to pressure lawmakers and health leadership to relax those restrictions.

As for saving the programs, there is a GoFundMe page that has been set up; we mentioned it in yesterday’s story about the Boise situation. You can see that here. Head baseball coach Gary Van Tol’s daughter Amaia is not letting the Boise administration stop her from giving it her best shot, and we again urge you to help support the effort. As of now, over $10,000 has been raised out of a goal of $100,000. All money will be refunded if the programs are not kept long-term, so please help out.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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