Harold Watson, former athletic director, was released from Goshen College two weeks ago. A team of four current GC employees have been selected to take over as an interim athletic director team and will continue to unfold the athletic department’s strategic plan until a new athletic director is hired.The strategic direction for GC athletics aims for a community in which athletes are involved and integrated in spaces across campus while still supported to win games. To achieve this goal, the athletic department will look to hire an athletic director and coaches who can model interdisciplinary engagement for the athletes they work with and share the vision and mission of GC while recruiting athletes.
Gilberto Perez, vice president of student life, said the college will seek to “create spaces for [their] team to see the entire campus as their playground.” Perez believes the interim athletic leadership team is well-equipped and ready to facilitate that work. Watson was unavailable for comment.
“I’m having more communication with the interim athletic leadership team than I had in a whole year and a half,” Perez said.
The leadership team brings together Erica Albertin, associate athletic director and head athletic trainer, Rustin Nyce, cross country head coach, Steph Miller, head women’s basketball coach and Justin Crew, head women’s soccer coach.
Albertin has served as associate athletic director for years and “has demonstrated the ability to lead in her area,” said Gilberto Perez, vice president of student life. When Perez announced the interim leadership team, the commissioner of the Crossroads League of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, Larry DeSimpelare, immediately responded with his support for GC’s decision.
Nyce ran cross country for Goshen College when he was a student and graduated in 2002. This is his fifth year as a head coach. Nyce recently returned from a week in South Dakota with GC students who competed in the NAIA national tournament.
Nyce is already embodying institutional engagement — the idea that the staff in a given department have a broader, interdisciplinary understanding of their role. Aside from coaching, Nyce is active in various campus groups including the Sexual Misconduct Response Team, the Bias Matters Response team and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force.
Faculty and staff from other parts of campus have expressed a desire for coaches and athletes to be more involved outside of the Recreation-Fitness Center, Nyce said. He added that coaches who are new to GC may not know how or with whom to get involved as they are first settling in to their roles.
Salvador Escamilla, a junior on the cross country team, knows it’s possible for sports teams to be active on campus while excelling on the field. Escamilla is a TA in a computer programming class and has participated in service club events doing work for LaCasa and other local organizations. He also competed in the 2019 NAIA national championship in Vancouver, Washington, and was one second off the qualifying time for the 2020 NAIA national track and field championship in South Dakota.
Ben Cotton, a senior broadcasting major who has played on the men’s basketball team for four years, likes the vision for the athletic department. But he mentioned that part of the reason athletes may not be as involved in other parts of campus is their busy schedule. The NAIA basketball season spans fall and spring semesters, and with preseason and May Term workouts, players are only off for the 10 weeks between spring break and the end of April.
Additionally, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, made up of two student athletes from each sports team, is working to raise the profile of athletes on campus. On Tuesday, SAAC members hosted a fundraiser at Culver’s. Student athletes wearing blue aprons swept the floor, wiped tables and greeted patrons. Escamilla said the money will be used to organize events designed to bring athletes and non-athletes together to build relationships.
Goshen College will begin their search for a new athletic director in the coming months and will look for a candidate who is excited to work with others on campus to pursue the college’s existing strategic plan.
“The athletic director doesn’t set the vision for the athletic department fully,” Perez said. “The athletic director works with the vice president of student life and the student life staff which is made up of athletics; student involvement; diversity, equity and inclusion; community engagement and operations.”
Escamilla said he wants an athletic director who is transparent, trustworthy and fair, valuing all sports teams equally. Cotton hopes for a leader who can help bridge the divide between the athletic building and the rest of campus, as well as someone who understands the culture and mission of Goshen College.
Nyce said he’s excited about the work that’s taking place.
“It’s important to take a deep dive into why do we do what we do,” he said. “How do we be the best version of ourselves?”