Recently the higher education system has come into crisis. With soaring costs, falling enrollment and many higher education options, small colleges/universities across the country are facing tough decisions whether to keep their doors open or shut.
Newbury College, a small private college located outside of Boston, Massachusetts, faced this dilemma and made the tough decision to shut down.
“We are providing this notice, before we are legally required to do so, because it is the right thing to do,” Joseph Chillo, Newbury College President said. “Our people, the dignity of our mission, and the legacy of the institution are our most important concerns of today.” (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/12/17/newbury-college-provides-early-notice-closing-announcement)
Again, Newbury made the decision BEFORE it was required to do so, giving its students, faculty/staff and administrators the opportunity to plan their respective futures — that is find a new school or employment.
From an athletics standpoint, this means Newbury College student-athletes, who competed at the NCAA Division III level, must weigh their options of remaining at an comparable athletic institution where they can still compete athletically or transfer to other institutions where athletics may not be in their future.
These are tough, life altering decisions that will change the student-athletes’ college experience forever.
Coaches, similarly, find themselves out of work scrambling for a comparable position. At the NCAA Division III level, some head and assistant coaches are part-time so it does not necessarily mean that they will not be able to pay bills and provide for their families. However, the monetary consideration does not minimize the hurt and emptiness that they may feel without athletics in their lives.
Having the opportunity to lead young men and women in the sport that you love is a great honor and a life’s dream for most. I cannot stress enough that these coaching or administration jobs are difficult to come by and are not easily replaced.
With all that said, I was most impressed with was how former Newbury College Athletic Director, Jonathan Harper advocated for his former staff. On July 15th, 2019, Mr. Harper wrote on his Twitter account, “To former AD colleagues: Since Newbury closed, 4 coaches are available for head coach positions. In all, they won 3 NECC titles last year, 2 regular season titles & 4 Coach of the Year honors. DM for info. #MissMyStaff “.
Furthermore, Mr. Harper has also “reached out to athletic members of the athletic administration staffs at the schools and municipalities that the coaches have applied to, (has) written letter and email recommendations for all of the coaches that he mentioned in his tweet plus the ones that did get jobs.” He also helped his former staff by “networking with other AD’s and their staffs…at the NACDA (National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics) Convention in June with the company that he currently works for and spoke with many decision makers there as well.”
Normally in college athletics coaches get hired to get fired. If coaches are lucky, they leave on their own terms. In other instances, “life happens” and coaches move on to more stable vocations or positions that allow for more family time. The closing of an institution, however, is unique to say the least, but may be more of a trend as the landscape of higher education continues to change.
Despite the usual and unfortunate circumstances for the coaches involved, Mr. Harper should be recognized and commended for the empathy he has shown for his coaches during this difficult time and the lengths at which he has advocated for them to find another coaching position.
He did not have to do this. It was not part of his contract. He most likely will never work with these individuals ever again.
Merely, he was being a true leader in every sense of the word, just doing what he would want his athletic director to do for him if he was a coach under similar circumstances.
Let us not forget, with the closing of Newbury College, Mr. Harper lost his job as well. Hopefully his supervisor reached out on behalf of Mr. Harper just as he did for his coaches.
I applaud you Mr. Jonathan Harper for leading your staff even after your tenure with them has ended. You are probably the same person who holds the door open for people, gets up at the barber shop if an elderly man walks in and all the seats in the waiting room are taken, help a woman to the car with her groceries and addresses employees at the counter with “hello, please and thank you.”
I do not know you but I truly appreciate you.
Thank you for doing the right thing. If we ever meet, I will buy you a cup of coffee and leave the tip.