April 1, 2009
The UIS athletics department has confirmed that both softball coaches have officially resigned. Head coach Joe Fisher and assistant coach Roy Gilmore, who also serve as Women’s Volleyball and Women’s Basketball coaches respectively, have stepped down from both of their positions as of March 20.
Women’s and Men’s golf coach Jay Davis also resigned his position of head coach last Friday after being placed on administrative leave on March 4. This makes Davis the third head coach to resign in 7 days. Athletics staff say that Davis’ resignation is unrelated to that of Gilmore and Fisher.
The resignations occurred after the softball team played in their annual trip to Kissimmee, Florida for the Spring Rebel Games, after which the team's record was 0-10.
Administration and players remained mute on the circumstances surrounding the resignations. Cheryl Peck, Director of Public Relations, was unable to comment since it was a “personnel issue.” Assistant Director of Athletics for Communication Scott Reed said that a joint effort of university officials and athletics staff conducted a university sponsored investigation that resulted in Gilmore’s and Fisher’s resignations.
Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said in an email to staff recently that, “I am aware that a lot of people are wondering why we have not made a campus announcement about this matter. Some people on and off campus are upset that we haven't. Well, the truth is rarely, if ever, do we make campus announcements about anyone's resignation.”
Ringeisen went on to say that, “When there is real or perceived controversy about any staff or faculty member, we usually can't make public comments in great detail because they are personnel matters.” Ringeisen assured readers that student athletes are students first and “our highest priority will always be to do what's best for our students.”
In a campus announcement, Pat Langley, Chair of the Campus Senate, questioned, “How should we interpret the silence that everyone on campus is talking about?”
“From my point of view… intercollegiate athletics at UIS shows all the signs of being at a critical, if not crisis, point in its development,” she added. “While probably most students have benefited from their involvement at UIS, other students and even whole teams have suffered in multiple and sometimes serious ways.”
The sports programs are currently in the process of moving from the NAIA American Midwest Conference to the NCAA Division II level, where they will be competing within the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Reed outlined how this season’s coaching vacancy will be filled saying, “Mat Mundell, an assistant men's basketball assistant coach at UIS, will be coaching the softball team for the remainder of the season.” The team is eager about both the arrival of a new coaching staff and entering conference play.
Pitcher Alexandra Newbern remarks, “We are excited about Coach (Mat Mundell). He has a different and exciting approach to the game. We have responded to it the last four games. The past is in the past and we are focused on winning.”
The team’s offense continues to grow. In a match against AMC foe William Woods, the Prairie Stars posted a season high in runs with seven.
Director of Athletics Rodger Jehlicka discussed the department’s future plans. He commented, “We’re moving forward; we’re just going to take care of business.” He also added, “We’re doing the things we’re doing to get ready to become a Division II active member.”
As the university was set to become a full member in the 2010-11 school year, the transition was expected to bring about change, yet the coaches’ resignations affect this current season. Going into their games on March 31, the team had a 0-14 record.
The UIS Softball season continues with four home games within 2 days against conference competition as the Prairie Stars are set to face off against Stephens and Colombia College.