What went way wrong with NIC athletics

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The CDA Press and its letters to the editor have provided a primer regarding NIC’s highly damaged athletic program but, as in most controversies, there is much more drama brewing in the Cardinal nest.

To start at ground zero one must only observe former President Joe Dunlap as the source for most damage. I experienced his lie to my face when we first met on Sherman Avenue preparing for a Fourth of July parade. Knowing that he was previously president of Spokane Community College, which competes in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) — mainly a group of Washington and Oregon Community colleges — I quickly asked him if he was going to drag NIC out of the NJCAA. His reply, “No way, not going to happen — chuckle chuckle.”

A short time later in the name of expense we are pulled out of our long-term stay with the NJCAA, staring at a new, more restrictive rule book from NWAC. NIC had been competitive and in a good relationship with NJCAA for many years. Almost anywhere in the country you could mention NIC wrestling and get a knowing response to its program.

Regarding expense, under President Burke I served on an 18-person committee to find what savings could be made by joining NWAC. After several months we found that due to differences in operating methods, it was difficult to state an exact factor but regardless, it would be negligible. President Burke ruled out making the change. I believe NIC has learned that from this experiment.

Meanwhile, a disgruntled NWAC individual made it a mission to slow down NIC’s success on the play field by nitpicking the new conference’s rules. The NWAC Board used it as a good excuse to whack NIC with a $30,000 fine, erasing all references to NIC’s championships in NWAC, causing a coach to sit out 10 games, etc. due to not following its rules. I find it amazing that here we are doing what we’ve done for years but now must bow down to a cross border rule book.

With all of this athletic disruption we have lost several good coaches to other opportunities, mainly the wrestling coach, Pat Whitcomb, and his assistant, Kerry Stanley. They were in charge of a sport that honored 13 NATIONAL titles with a program envied across the nation. It is unknown to me why he and the AD, Al Williams, failed to get along and why firing two coaches with premier records preceded a lesser punishment for whatever reasons. Previously superb basketball coach Jared Phay and softball coach Don Don Williams left for greener pastures.

AD, Al Williams, since retired, is one of the finest people I know and has built a great athletic program with meager resources. Although I disagree with his caving to the administration with its “take it or leave it” attitude, I’m glad that he is going to stay in the area. He could easily find employment if desired.

As a 35-year member and former president, I have dropped Booster Club support over this issue and the fact that its board, with little resistance, rolled over to the administration’s untenable demands.

I wish Joe Dunlap a sarcastic thank you for sticking a dagger into one of the nation’s best CC athletic programs. After retirement, like a bad nickel, he returned to an NIC Board of Trustees position.

Knowing most of the board as reasonable folks, I’ll never understand how they allowed this to become what it is. It could all be solved by returning to the NJCAA, i.e., if they would have us back. Or better yet, NWAC retire its entire organization and bring all colleges into the premier CC group, the NJCAA. With fewer restrictive rules and shorter driving distances, much would be resolved.


Don Sausser is a Coeur d’Alene resident.

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