Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

A team without a captain

At issue: Nearly two years without an athletic director

Our take: Change in the department is long overdue

It’s been 615 days since Kristin Parnell unceremoniously resigned from her post as Emerson’s athletic director. The decision came after current and former student athletes, their parents, and their friends petitioned the school for months to strip Parnell of her position and effect change in the department. 

In the 615 days since Parnell’s departure, though, little has changed.

In the coming months, according to Dean of Students Ronald Ludman, who oversees both the athletic department and the search committee charged with finding a new director, a large pool of candidates will be narrowed down, and the college will likely offer one of them the job in March.

But while Emerson has created committees and search groups in the last year-plus, the department wasn’t simply put on hold. 

In that time, Emerson switched athletic conferences from the Great Northeast Athletic Conference to the much more competitive New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. It’s been a difficult transition — Emerson’s teams have gone a combined 14-41-1 in the new conference to date — and yet the college did not install a new director in the 14 months between Parnell’s resignation and entering the new conference. 

A new athletic director wouldn’t have been out on the fields or courts improving that record, but the stability and vision he or she could have provided would have been welcome nonetheless. 

Plenty has happened in other departments since Parnell left. Emerson has made major hires across the board, with the likes of Sylvia Spears, vice president for diversity and inclusion; Lori Beth Way, senior advisor to academic affairs; Jeffrey Schoenherr, vice president for development and alumni relations; Michaele Whelan, vice president for academic affairs; and Kevin Bright, senior executive director of the Los Angeles Center. 

There certainly wasn’t a hiring freeze, but the search to find a new athletic director never quite seemed like part of the game plan.

In previous interviews with the Beacon, Ludman discussed the need to identify problems in the department, and not rush the process. Unfortunately, the information gathering process has taken nearly two years.

The college’s relationship with the department’s alumni — some of Parnell’s most vocal adversaries — is still fractured, at best. It was only seven months ago during the NBA Draft when one of the department’s most prominent alumni, Sam Presti, had a representative contact the college asking to have his name taken off a story on the athletics website. Presti, the general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one of many athletes to come through the college who have made a name for themselves in professional sports. Unfortunately, his story — as told by him — rarely includes Emerson, as he has cut ties with the college. 

The writing has long been on the wall for Emerson to do something to correct the problems in its athletic department. News that the college hopes to hire a new athletic director by early March is encouraging, but still raises the question as to what was going on while there was no permanent director. 

Here’s to the next 615 days.

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