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Coach White Speculation

More than you could possibly want to read about soon-to-be-former Track and Field Coach Ralph White here. I was struck by these comments:

Coach White knows the sport, but he doesn’t fit very well into the Williams culture. Others in the athletics department and administration think he is a little too aggressive come budget and admissions time and if you can’t get along with your bosses and peers you aren’t going to last long even if you are successful. His improprieties with having a more or less fake masters and the situation with the African family, certainly don’t help the situation, but I think those are more excuses than the real political reasons behind the decision.

The real story with Coach White is that he made the President very angry last year when he fought to have their track redone. He fights for what’s right for his athletes no matter what, but it backfired this time. Williams has a huge team (130+) and when everyone’s parents got involved writing letters and such, it embarrassed the President in front of the rich+ powerful alums. It has recently come to light that Pres. Schapiro actually sent an angry email after he was pressured to get the track redone, saying to find a way to get rid of coach white…(and hire a woman in his place. And now that that has come out, they are trying to make a financial settlement. It will be extremely interesting to see if CW calls them out or if he lets them get away with it.

There are rumours going around the DIII track community about a certain female athlete of his, steriods, and his relationship with this athlete.

The athletic directer approved the online degree in 2004 and the school actually gave him a raise for it. It is documented by an email. As for the coach from Benin, he recruited international students as he spoke 4 or 5 languages. Williams will give aid to needy international students and they now have 8 on the team. The problem is that the african coach did not know track but that also was approved by the AD because the school wanted diversity. The school created a special slot to hire a minority and gave him a small salary. The ad is on leave this semester and the person who replaced him was the one who did not want coach white there originally. The students had to fight to get him instead of a female just out of college.

True? Who knows? I discount the steroid/relationship rumors. Acting Athletic Director Lisa Melendy is certainly a dangerous person to tangle with. She was no friend of former baseball coach Dave Barnard either. Also, the Administration did not view Barnard as the most cooperative coach in the world. I suspect that his lobbying for better baseball facilities earned him no favors from Morty. Lesson for other coaches: Don’t fight the Administration or their favored underlings.

Apparently, President Schapiro sent a letter to track and field Ephs (only alumni or students too?) addressing the matter. Could someone paste it in the comments? Also, are the Friends of Williams Track and Field involved in this case? Their website is somewhat out of date.

For me, this story is interesting more for the revelations about the gold-plated nature of the Williams Athletic department. Sheehy is on leave for the entire year?! What is that about? Now, if this is some sort of medical/family emergency, that would be one thing. But, my understanding is that he just felt like taking some time off. With pay? (Perhaps he did not want to deal with either the Barnard or White firings.) Is being AD at a place like Williams so stressful? Doesn’t it leave enough time for book-writing?

Back in the day, Bob Peck was both athletic director and coach of the men’s basketball team. Why doesn’t the AD also coach?

It gets worse. In 2001, Lisa Melendy “retired from coaching to become the Ephs’ Senior Women’s Administrator in the Athletic Department.” What does she do all day? If she became the Athletic Director, would Williams promote someone to the position of Senior Men’s Administrator? Just asking!

I think that the athletic department at Williams has many more coaches and staff than it had 20 years ago. And yet, even though there are dozens of freshmen and sophomores who would love to play on, say, a JV baseball team, we don’t field one. Why not?

I don’t begrudge Williams spending X dollars on athletics, but I have many concerns about how that money is being spent. We should have more teams (especially JV and freshmen teams in popular sports like baseball and soccer) and more participation.

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#1 Comment By ! On May 13, 2007 @ 10:11 am

Re: Lisa Melendy, I’m not sure what she does all day but it certainly isn’t related to being involved in Williams athletics. Not only has she never been to a single track practice or a meet (not ONE, including home meets) but also when this year’s captains went to talk to her a few weeks ago she had no idea who they were.

Plain and simple this comes down to Morty getting mad about the fuss over the new track. This is a casualty of political crossfire, NOT a decision about what is “best for the students” as the administration would love everyone to believe. I am not sure which students they are talking about because it’s certainly not the kids on the track team.

#2 Comment By & On May 13, 2007 @ 11:20 am

It is unusual, but Williams gives coaches a sabbatical every seven or eight years. It is like the sabbaticals other faculty members receive: unpaid (but obviously there are some benefits that continue, and those have a cost to Williams).

For an administrator or coach, it provides a way to recharge and to learn new things in her or his area. It can also be an important opportunity to put a spouse’s interests/needs into first priority. Division I coaches rarely get sabbaticals (or at least not scheduled ones). These sabbaticals help Williams attract and keep great coaches and can make them better at their jobs — I think we have quite a few DI-level coaches for our DIII sports, and things like the possibility of sabbaticals are among the ways we attract and keep them.

The women’s crew coach (who would be competitive for many top DI jobs) is on sabbatical for the year, working for the Canadian national team programs. This should make him an even better coach (I think he was already DIII coach of the year last year). The sabbatical opportunity is the kind of thing that is keeping him at Williams.

They cause some messy bumps along the way, no doubt, but I strongly support giving coaches and athletic administrators opportunities for regularly-scheduled sabbaticals. If nothing else, they help prevent burn out. In the case of the administrators, it also gives the lower-tier administrators a chance to develop skills and get on-the-job training for the higher-level slots. Williams seems to have a lot of administrators who hold the top jobs for many years; it’s good to develop some depth of experience and skills among their second-in-commands.

On another subject, I’d be interested to know why Williams requires M.A. degrees for the senior athletic staff, and when this requirement was instituted. Does it also apply to admissions and other areas of the college, or only to the coaches because they actually teach P.E. classes?

#3 Comment By Diana On May 13, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

Williams has a JV soccer team, or at least did in 2003-2004. Also JV lacrosse teams.

Note that yesterday, the women’s track team won Division I New Englands. That’s right — this Division III school beat Dartmouth, BU and others to take the all-New England title. “Winning championships with students who populate the Dean’s list,” indeed.

#4 Comment By NFW On May 13, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

Wealthy intitutions need to be very careful about letting rumors (or, if you insist, rumours) about the real cause of unjustified actions go unchecked…especially when such rumors/rumours can easily be batted down by aggressive actions on the part of the president of the college. Failure to take such action itself can be actionable. Put one foot in it and it’s unfortunate but not too late to clean up; fail to take your foot out, and pretty soon you’re knee deep and sinking fast.

#5 Comment By jfn On May 14, 2007 @ 2:12 am

No worries. Rumors on this blog are rarely based in fact and are not taken seriously by anyone in real life. This is mostly a forum to let off steam and talk about nonsense.

#6 Comment By frank uible On May 14, 2007 @ 8:01 am

jfn: Despite my agreement with your point about “steam and nonsense”, I’m not in favor of creating or repeating on this blog unsubstantiated, potentially damaging rumors.

#7 Comment By NFW On May 14, 2007 @ 9:39 am

There mere existence of malicious rumors can be damaging, all the more so when they are fed by certain coy refusals to comment by officers of the institution. Such damages can be precisely measured in dollars by juries of our peers, not all of whom graduated from a hoity-toity college. It therefore behooves the college administration to act promptly and forcefully to put down such rumors. Their failure to do so–not the rumors themselves–is what makes the institution liable. Forewarned is forearmed.

#8 Comment By frank uible On May 14, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

NFW: Please cite your legal authority for one’s liability for damages to another with whom one does not have a fiduciary or special contractual relationship when the damages are caused solely by one’s failure to correct false information which information one had not communicated to others.

#9 Comment By & On May 14, 2007 @ 12:54 pm

And while they’re off hunting through cases, the historians might take a spin at my questions about requiring advanced degrees:

Why does Williams require M.A. degrees for the senior athletic staff? I would assume it is because they actually teach P.E. classes.
When was this requirement instituted?

Does it also apply to admissions and other areas of the college, or only to the coaches?

#10 Comment By Anonymous On May 15, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

Personally I am curious to know more about how Lisa Melendy fits into this picture. From what I hear, Melendy has spent 3 years of White’s tenure actually away from the school- on sabbatical, on maternity leave, and on leave when her partner had a baby. The rest of the time, she apparently comes into to work 3 days a week- much of the athletic staff doesn’t even know her (not to mention that she would also seem to be woefully out of touch with the students!) Maybe all this time off is the reason that Coach White has yet to have a SINGLE “yearly evaluation” in his seven years here! Yet, Melendy was the one to write an evaluation to the CAP committee talking about the african family- something tells me she is in no position to speak authoritatively on that topic, especially to CAP!

I have heard various rumors about the Africans- on one hand that the assistant hired was coach’s daughter’s boyfriend, and on the other hand that he paid to bring the whole family over because they were basically starving. Does anyone know the real story (not melendy’s made-up crap)?

#11 Comment By anon On May 15, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

A side point: White is entitled to a sabbatical himself, after being here over six years. No other coach is responsible for four teams (men and women, indoor and outdoor). If a faculty member spent 6 days a week teaching a class of 120 for hours every day and all day on saturday, you can imagine how they might react.

Perhaps Melendy took her sabbatical to care of her own skeletons in the closet.

#12 Comment By ….. On May 15, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

The family had no relation to Ralph. His daughter met them when she was serving in the Peace Corps. It was a married couple and their children. Ralph paid for the whole family to fly over and for medical care.

This is the man they want to get rid of. Maybe it is because he makes them look selfish.

#13 Comment By Anonymous On May 15, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

If someone endured 5-9 years of real graduate school, you can imagine how they would react to a coach buying a degree.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but kind-hearted folks can’t bring African families over here willy-nilly and fix them up with jobs. It is, after all, against the law. You know, laws. Regulations. Rules. Those things for which a coach is supposed instill respect .

#14 Comment By Anonymous On May 16, 2007 @ 9:00 am

#15 Comment By Anonymous On May 16, 2007 @ 9:41 am

Email on the Attempted Firing of Williams Coach Ralph White
May 15, 2007

Editor’s Note: We received the following email from Suzanne Ivey on the attempted firing of Ralph White, the coach at Williams University (and the NCAA DIII coach of the year). (Message board thread here)

I am one of the founders of Friends of Williams Track and Field wishing to speak to several points coming up on this conversation.

There is no smoking gun, there are no devious means to success, and there are no improper relationships and no performance enhancing drugs, and no friend-of-a-friends first cousin who had a funky recruitment experience. Coach White can’t recruit someone who would not get into the College otherwise, even though many rejected by Williams run for the Ivy’s. Quell your imagination and just look at what is in front of you. The College hiding behind confidentiality is protecting no one, except possibly the administration. Please stop imagining horrific secrets, and stop listening to rumors which impugn not only Coach White but some amazingly committed, hard-working and capable young people as well who have done nothing to deserve your unkind speculation but to put themselves heart and soul on the track and field!

Yes! Coach White is amazingly successful, and has brought many winning athletes to the podium since being at Williams. But what readers here don’t get, is that the success is not the primary goal but one of many outcomes of a deeply engrained belief system, some of which by its very power rankles and threatens others in the system, both within the Department, the administration of the College and maybe within the Division and NCAA, which by the way has once again named him Coach of the Year in all of New England, all Divisions.

There is no doubt Coach loves to win and is very competitive, but the fundamental “secret” here is how he is the “winningest” coach in Williams history. His measure of a team is the degree to which the team will support every single member, even its least member, to dig down and find his/her own challenge, and do the work to meet it, to find and confront the obstacles. Most of the team will never make it to a podium, but the energy of 130 athletes in pursuit of “personal best” is what elevates the whole team, and every individual who tries will have the whole team behind them, and will have an experience for their lifetime. Consequently, year after year, there are student-athletes who found something there even they didn’t know they had. Some of the point earners were not among the hot recruits, and some of the stars reached beyond what even they knew they had. We have seen amazing surprise performances every year because Coach White helps his young men and women see what might be possible. His favorite quote is “Your body won’t go where your mind has not been.”

THAT is how Williams has been winning championships in Track and Field.

For Coach White, respect for oneself and support of others is paramount, and he expects his team to live clean, honor the gift of their healthy bodies, speak with respect, behave with honor, and to value the person they might become. He pushes for them to get the most out of their educational opportunity, because he knows personally how precious that opportunity is. He encourages his members to value family, and to appreciate the opportunity that has been given, some by sacrifice, some by position, but all an opportunity not to be squandered. He also continuously makes them aware of their role in the local and world community, and his efforts to recruit members from all walks of life has made the Track team one of the most ethnically and economically diverse entities on the campus.

His commitment to the all-comers team has been a point of conflict since he has been there, and at one point, he personally was buying shirts that the College wouldn’t because everyone who wanted to run for Williams would have the uniform. He fought for his least financially secure members to have all the opportunities of the more affluent, so the whole team worked to raise money, so no one would be denied the spring training trip, and each would feel the pride of all.

Someone has asked what role Friends of Williams Track and Field has had in this situation, and where they are now and why the website is outdated. Last year, when parents were frustrated that the track was crumbling literally beneath our kids’ feet, we went to the administration and were told a plan was in progress and to trust the chain of command. Our kids were told by the AD that nothing more could be done, and that a plan was in process. The Master Plan was up on the wall, yellowing and peeling, and had been there for five years. Then we learned that the new plan was to build a temporary track at the high school fifteen minutes from campus and that our kids would be bussed out to practice (my kid has two lab courses every semester). Now our kids, highly respected across the country, never had a chance to perform before their own College community. We went to Coach to ask how such a plan could even be devised, and he said he had virtually no input until it was a done deal. So we acted, formed Friends of Williams Track and Field, engaged the alumnae/ni and several hundred members of the teams since ’46 responded. In the process, the administration was embarrassed that so many people now knew that one of the best organizations on campus had been stonewalled for several years and could wait no more.

Last August, I discussed with a member of the Athletics Department how we might raise some small funds to support the spring training trip for financially struggling members without violating any College or NCAA rules, since we were not and had no intention of ever being a fund raising or fund earmarking group. I learned a lot about kinds of fund and timelines, and clearly heard the complications of such endeavors as selling decals, t-shirts, etc were too much for our request to work out. I graciously accepted the information, re-iterating that FWTF was not interested in interfering in any way with the fundraising relationship between the College and Alumnae/ni, and that there did not seem to be any way we could help with the trip. I then was told in no uncertain terms that the administration was very angry with Friends, discouraged such organizations and that Ralph White would pay the ultimate price for our action for the new track. I also learned shortly after that the contents of my phone conversation were completely misrepresented to the administration as though FWTF was moving full steam, College be damned. Two days later, Coach White was ordered to have no further conversations with me, though my daughter was on the team. For fear of making the situation even more precarious for him, we went dark on the website until all this was resolved so that could not be used against him, since that seemed to be the primary thorn in the administration’s side.

In retrospect, we made a huge mistake in doing so, because it allowed the administration to isolate him and act against him. He attempted to deal with the promotion issue within the system and did not involve anyone else until several of us demanded to know what was happening. The administration’s plan worked because they could then respond with the oft quoted letter that the case against Coach White had already been made, and that Morty personally guaranteed that procedures were meticulously followed. Morty, Dean Wagner, and Acting AD Melendy were the parties in charge of creating the file that went to the faculty, and only God and they know what is in that file, but from what we have seen of parts, distortion evident.

This administration is squandering a gift: an exceptional coach who challenges everyone to be better. The College should be embarrassed about their own dishonorable behavior in this atrocious situation.

#16 Comment By Shamus On May 16, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

Could we get this letter put up as a new blog entry?

I am worried readers will miss it.

#17 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On May 16, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

Shamus,

If the letter above had an author attached, I would be glad to promote it to the front page at some point.

#18 Comment By Diana On May 16, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

Ken, the above letter was from Suzanne Ivey, the parent of a current Eph, and was posted on letsrun. I’m happy to put it up, Shamus.

Edit: Here is the new blog post with the letter.

#19 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On May 16, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

Diana: thanks, it wasn’t clear in the original form if Suzanne had authored the post or had forwarded it.

There are now many, conflicting representations and claims “on the table.”

My instincts are to believe what Suzanne says, and, with Frank, to assume “darkness” is behind these events.

Not being as close to these events as others in the past at Williams, however, it would be very good at this point to have some corroboratory evidence, by which we might judge who is and has acted with or without integrity in these events.

#20 Comment By Anonymous On May 17, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

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#21 Comment By Anonymous On May 17, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

So up until this point, I have sat quietly in the background and watched this issue explode. It is amazing how an issue like this will bring people out of the wood work, some with seemingly good insights and others simply looking for another rant against the administration. I loved my time and Williams and on the track team, but I think that the administration is making the RIGHT DECISION.

So the official reasons for Coach White’s departure were the fake Coach Antoine and his fake Rochville University degree. When Antoine was here there was a running joke on the team about him being a “coach”. While Coach White mainatains that the administration wholeheartedly approved of his charity position, I’m sure that Sheehy wasn’t aware that Antoine had NO experience and that he wasn’t even around that much as an official coach. Let’s get past the crap about him “inspiring the team” and realize that there was no reason that he should have had the job.

Rochville University?? Have you looked at the website. For $800 I could have my BS, MS, and PHD with a click of my mouse. No class work, nothing. While Sheehy may have agreed that an online degree would be sufficient, I’m sure he never imagined that Coach White would simply purchase a degree online.

As the administration has acknowledged, these 2 issues are just the tip of the ice berg I think that they in themselves are enough to send him packing. I think that it’s gutsy to look past the obvious success of Coach White and call him out on CHARACTER issues. I think that most of the athletes on the team are naive and brainwashed to a point that they fail to see obvious shortcomings. In their defense, Coach White is an incredibly persuasive guy and could convince most people to do just about anything.

Like he did with The FRIENDS OF WILLIAMS TRACK and FIELD! Last year when this “parent’s group” was founded it seemed like a nice idea to have food and snacks at meets, and have a group of people that genuinely cared about Williams Track. However the group quickly turned into a political action committee under the direction of Coach White. I don’t know if any of you read the FWTF website last year but it was almost completely FALSE. The “facts” that they posted had to have come from Coach White but were completely untrue. That’s why the administration required Coach White to stop communicating with Mrs. Ivey, because the website was a bunch of crap.