Cross country and football teams devastated by deficit


Because of the recent budget cuts in the athletic department, football coach Cliff Schenk, cross country coach David Gramlich, and an office assistant were cut, shocking and devastating the football and cross country teams.

Director of athletics Charlie Grimes notes that the cuts were made to combat the deficit the school is facing due to repercussions from this year’s low enrollment.

Pioneer football and cross country recently had cuts within their department. Both teams are devastated by the news of their coaches leaving the program. (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

“It seems counterintuitive to cut coaches who are recruiting students, if you are cutting them because your enrollment is down,” Grimes said. “There are four other full-time football coaches and two other full-time track and cross country coaches that are going to pick up that slack.”

The two coaches are allowed to work with their teams until the end of the season.

“The number of students we have involved with athletics here is pretty much at capacity, so that means we really can’t add any more athletes,” Grimes said.

The campus as a whole is looking for ways to increase enrollment, other then recruiting athletes.

“It is a factor of the whole campus trying to take on some of the deficit that we are facing,” Grimes said. “This was part of the way athletics had to step up and be willing to be a part of that as well. It was very disappointing because of those number issues, with athletics being pretty healthy with regard to recruitment, but the general student body being not so healthy.”

If enrollment increases, the positions could be reinstated.

“The two coaching positions weren’t cut, they were just suspended,” Grimes said. “They basically postponed them and as soon as we can get the enrollment back, we would either bring those same coaches back or we would be able to rehire, if those coaches don’t want those jobs back.”

Head cross country coach Jack Hazen was not at ease with the decisions regarding cuts within his department.

“Why they cut the athletic department is beyond me,” Hazen said. “The person I lost was the recruiting coordinator and we are challenged to recruit between 40-50 freshmen next year.  So why would you cut the guy that’s going to do that?  It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The cross country team received the news about the cuts after a successful weekend in Disney World.

“I don’t like the way it was done,” Hazen said. “I wasn’t consulted; I was out of town when he was cut.”

The cross country team has their regional and national meet approaching quickly, and with the emotional stress of losing a coach, many athletes worry about performance.

“As we are preparing for the most important events of the year, we are being affected negatively,” Hazen said.

But it isn’t just the staff that is being affected in the cross country department.  Their budget as a whole was cut, while cutting from the schedule a Maryland race that the team participates in every year. [pullquote]“I don’t like the way it was done,” Hazen said. “I wasn’t consulted; I was out of town when he was cut.”[/pullquote]

Recently, the team was affected when racing in Michigan.

“Walsh is taking a charter, Findlay and Tiffin are flying there, and none of them are ranked nationally,” Hazen said. “We are ranked third in the region and we are driving vans.”

The team had to travel a total of 24 hours in vans this past weekend.  Calculating mileage and time, it was estimated that the team could have driven all the way to Gainesville, Florida, where they take their annual spring break trip in March.

“I understand that the university is in a tough time, but it’s not our fault,” Hazen said.

The football team also lost a coach due to the cuts. Head football coach Eric Hehman was impressed with how Schenk, who was cut, handled the decision.

“Cliff handled the news like a champ and trusted the Lord,” Hehman said. “It’s an unfortunate position, but he modeled how to handle a tough situation.”

Schenk worked specifically with equipment, recruitment and the offensive and defensive line.

“Cliff has still been around, helping out as much as he possibly could, while he is trying to get his future figured out,” Hehman said.

Hehman has been coaching Pioneer football for four years.  In that time, these are the first budget cuts the department has received.

“It provides a challenge because as we entered Division II, we are kind of the new kid on the block,” Hehman said. “There is a process of getting acclimated to Division II.  Any step backwards as far as personnel or budget is not going to put us in a beneficial situation.”

Tyler Mihalik, a senior offensive lineman, met Coach Cliff during his recruitment visit.

“He was always the guy I’d go to for equipment or anything,” Mihalik said.

The team was told about the cuts during a Thursday EMAP meeting.

“Most people, the younger guys, to them he was a coach, they only knew him for this year,” Mihalik said. “But some of the older guys I sat next to, more or less we were sad and angry at the same time. Sad to see  him go. Angry that we just lost one of our oldest coaches that puts more into this program behind the scenes than anyone else.”

Schenk has been a coach for Pioneer football for eight years. With his position cut, athletes are fearful of how the outcome will effect the team.

“I trusted him to make sure I always had the best equipment out there to be as safe as possible,” Mihalik said. “To lose him was a giant, giant loss.  I think it’s going to hurt the team more than anything.” 

Read junior cross country runner Sara Polatas’s opinion on the recent budget cuts.


 Casey Stevens is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.

Categories: Sports

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