With the recent hire of Ben McArthur as its interim men’s soccer coach, Northwest College has taken the first step in a proactive approach to resolving its issues with heavy coaching turnover.
McArthur, a Virginia native with nearly a decade of college coaching experience, will arrive on campus Monday, while interviews with prospective coaches for the volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s soccer teams will be conducted in the next couple of weeks. NWC athletic director Brian Erickson said his department plans to be fully staffed by May.
“I think we’re about a month away from having everyone we need on campus,” Erickson said. “In two weeks, we could have a volleyball and women’s soccer coach. We’re a little behind of where I wanted to be due to scheduling, but I think we’re in a good place.”
That’s good news for an athletic department that’s had to deal with a steady stream of coaching changes, as well as questions of whether the college is fully invested in its athletics.
After a long period of coaching stability, the volleyball program is entering next season with its third coach in as many years, while McArthur will be the fourth men’s soccer coach in four years; the women’s soccer team will similarly open the fall season with a new coach for the fourth straight year.
A student athlete on the volleyball team aired grievances about the turnover to the NWC Board of Trustees in February. Shortly after that, administrators began unrolling a proactive approach aimed at shutting the revolving door and restoring confidence on campus among the college’s athletes. Dropping a requirement that all coaches hold a master’s degree has shown an increase in the number of applicants with solid coaching resumes, and the hiring of McArthur is the first result of that policy change.
Also encouraging are the recent successes on the recruiting trail of the wrestling and women’s basketball programs. Both longtime wrestling coach Jim Zeigler and interim women’s coach Cam Levett have signed a number of athletes in the past few weeks, including a handful of state champion wrestlers from Utah, the 2A Wyoming Player of the Year in girls’ basketball and a couple of All-State selections from Colorado.
The bottom line is that athletes still view Northwest as a viable option to continue their athletic careers, hone their skills and continue on to four-year programs. We are not that far removed from some stellar seasons by NWC’s athletic teams and we believe brighter days are ahead for Erickson and his department; we applaud the efforts made by the administration to address the coaching issue. In hindsight, questions may linger as to why something wasn’t done sooner, but the willingness the college has shown to do right by its student athletes speaks volumes to NWC’s commitment to its sports programs.
Like anything else, building a successful program relies on a number of factors, not the least of which is time. Here’s hoping the recent steps taken by college leaders to get NWC athletics back on track will continue in earnest.