After 35 years, the longest running head coaching era at Marquette will be ending in June.
On Wednesday, the MU athletic department announced that head women’s tennis coach Jody Bronson would be retiring effective June 18th. Bronson was hired as the first head coach in Division 1 program history in 1985 and won three conference tournament championships during her tenure at Marquette, earning three NCAA tournament bids as well. She is credited with 440 victories as head coach, although that only counts for dual meets and team tournament titles and doesn’t take into account individual titles won by her players.
Here’s the quote from Bronson in the official MU press release.
“Thirty-five years ago Hank Raymonds and Tat Sheily gave me the opportunity to coach the Marquette women’s tennis team in its inaugural year in Division I,” Bronson said. ”This opportunity proved to be more than I could have ever imagined. It’s been an honor to be able to coach and mentor so many incredible young women, who today continue to use their whole Marquette experience in their daily lives.
“I have experienced some amazing accomplishments with these players, but I truly value the long-lasting relationships I have maintained,” Bronson added. ”I am so proud of them for what they gave to Marquette and how those experiences helped to shape their lives. I am forever grateful to Marquette for this experience that has enriched my life.”
The press release also notes that Bronson’s retirement will end up contributing to a restructuring of the athletic department. Steve Rodecap was promoted to Marquette’s Director Of Tennis following the 2017-18 school year, meaning that he was officially in charge of what used to be his men’s tennis program as well as Bronson’s women’s team. Rodecap is now officially the head coach for both teams, and assistant coaches Jud Shaufler and Dusan Medan have been promoted to associate head coach of tennis. This gives the athletic department and tennis program a bit of flexibility, as all three coaches are able to work with every student athlete in the program.
There’s an upside and a downside here that can’t really go ignored. The upside is, quite honestly, that the university is going to presumably shed some payroll by way of Bronson’s retirement. Marquette is going from four people coaching tennis to only three. It stands to reason that Shaufler and Medan will be picking up a raise of some fashion to go with their promotions, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be splitting Bronson’s old salary up 50/50 between the two of them. As the university as a whole was already facing some very serious financial realities before they furloughed 250 employees as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it can’t be a bad thing to trim a few bucks off the finance ledger.
The other item is more of a societal issue. I can’t help but notice that Marquette is accepting Bronson’s retirement and moving ahead with three men — Rodecap, Shaufler, and Medan — running the women’s tennis program. Now, it’s obvious that this was the ultimate destination when Rodecap was installed as Director Of Tennis two years ago. I want to make it clear that I’m not accusing the university of making some sort of snap decision out of nowhere and landing with this particular situation.
However, I also can’t ignore the fact that since the start of the 2019-20 school year, Marquette has now made three decisions to put men in charge of their women’s teams. First it was Frank Pelaez being brought back to Marquette to take over the women’s soccer team, then it was Sean Birren promoted from interim to full-time cross-country coach for the men’s and women’s squads as well as handling the distance running aspects of the men’s and women’s track & field teams. I’m not trying to accuse the university of anything nefarious on any level. I am, however, pointing out the same thing that I pointed out when MU was looking to replace Carolyn Kieger.
“We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power.”
“All these millions of girls that play sports across the country, we’re teaching them great things about life skills, but wouldn’t it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead?”
Those aren’t my words, but the words of now retired Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw. Again, this is clearly a decision that the university made two years ago, and it’s one that actually benefits the bottom line for the athletic department. It just would have been nice to see Marquette do something to benefit their student athletes a little bit more than that.