Column: NKU Shouldn’t give into pressure



Senior Chrissy Spears shares a hug with head coach Bob Sheehan prior to Friday’s game with Valparaiso.

Christopher Decker, Sports Editor

Not five minutes after the NKU men’s soccer team lost their sixth straight game, this tweet appeared in the mentions of the Northerner Sports account, after reporting the final score of the game.

Now, suggesting a 14-year veteran coach with a record of 160-75-34, essentially should be replaced for the miserable 1-11-4 season the team has had, maybe be out of line.

In fact, John Basalyga is one of only three coaches to win a NCAA DII National Championship in the history of NKU athletics and since the move to Division I, has posted two winning seasons out of the four seasons in DI.

Last year even, in their first season as a member of the Horizon League, Basalyga lead his team to a 8-7-4 record with a 4-2-3 record in conference.

This year is a year of transition, after losing seniors, including goalkeeper AJ Fleak, Basalyga has started six freshmen at various points during this season, including a game against Evansville where 10 freshmen entered the game for the Norse.

Twelve non-freshman played in that game. Exactly zero seniors played.

So to call for one of the most successful coaches in NKU history to be replaced after one bad season is premature I think.

But the views expressed from this tweet gives an interesting view to where the NKU athletic department is with the fan base.

There will be pressure from people to win now, and if teams don’t win now then fans will start wondering if the leaders of these teams should be replaced, regardless of the sport and the history of the coach in charge.

I can guarantee if John Brannen, the men’s basketball coach, has another season like the 9-21 season he had last year, people will want him replaced, even if he has only been there two years.

It’s the nature of DI athletics.

Win, or find someone who will win instead.

That’s part of why the Norse didn’t keep former basketball coach Dave Bezold, who went 194-133 in 11 seasons as the head coach. Despite three overall losing seasons as a DI coach, Bezold helped the Norse finish fourth twice in the A-Sun regular season standings

But I think if NKU takes the approach the fans want them to take, and the approach they took with Bezold, they will never be successful in any sport. Stability is the key to winning, and firing coaches after one or two bad seasons is not the way you should build a program.

You look at programs like Wichita State, where Head Coach Gregg Marshall has been since 2007. His first two seasons he struggled, going 11-20 (similar to Brannen’s first season) and then 17-17 before posting seven straight winning seasons, including multiple appearances in the NCAA tournament.

The Shockers stuck with Marshall, and if Brannen is the same caliber coach as Marshall, the Norse would be foolish to let him go if this season doesn’t go quite as planned on the basketball court.

The Norse coaching staff is full of stability. Basalyga, as mentioned before, has been with the school 14 years. Women’s soccer coach Bob Sheehan has been with the school 20 years, winning 284 games and only losing 87 times. Todd Asalon, head baseball coach, has been with the university for 16 years.

All three of these coaches have winning career records in their NKU histories. All of them have 10 plus years at the school.

Ultimately what talented recruits want to see, those who plan to stick around for the duration of their eligibility anyway, is the stability of the program and a coach they can trust and grow from. NKU has historically been a program that values this aspect of college athletics.

Fans need to understand this. One bad season doesn’t make a program.

Basalyga isn’t going anywhere. Brannen shouldn’t go anywhere if this season isn’t successful. Camryn Whitaker will not be fired if her first season is a bad one.

Success takes time. Come back and talk about keeping coaches accountable in five years.