Opinion: Winter sports supported at SNC

Chris DeLeon, SNC Athletic Director

Mr. Schoff,
In regards to your column, there are items I agree with, but also disagree with.

Sierra Nevada College is, and will always be, a snow- oriented school. It has history with alpine, freeski, and snowboarding. I have known that about SNC ever since I worked at Heavenly Ski Foundation more than 15 years ago. This is where the previous SNC alpine coach and athletic director came from as well.

Let’s talk recruiting first. SNC is a very difficult school to recruit to, and can’t only use Lake Tahoe as the selling point. We must diversify our offerings. Students like yourself are far more engaged in studies and extracurricular passions.

To your next point, as the AD for my second year now, there is one thing I am trying to get rid of: student coaches. It is just not fair for athletes that a student- coach runs their collegiate program. I’m only guessing, but I believe student coaches were hired before as not many non-student coaches were applying to be coaches. That’s no longer the case.

Recently I have spoken with two freeski and two snowboard candidates that applied to be coaches, but they weren’t coaches. They wanted to come to SNC for the passes. I’m okay hiring alumni because they might be vested in seeing the program grow. Your former coach is an alumni and came highly recommended by two long-time staff professors, so I gave him a chance.

You being “left in the dark” I believe was caused since it was very difficult to make contact with him. He routinely cited issues such as a broken phone or that he was no longer getting emails. When you say “we never had practices” that is news to me, but I wish a leader of the team had come in and visited with me.

Snowboarding’s current best recruiter is in admissions, Bryant Davis. He travels tirelessly across the country to academies selling SNC. Ty Casey (alumni) has agreed to be the snowboard coach. The marketing team only had enough budget for one athlete to attend USASA in trying to help recruit more athletes for all sports. Budget-wise, without getting too specific, just know that SNC spends a hefty two times more per athlete for winter sports athletes than soccer and lacrosse athletes. The last two seasons were epic winters, and many of your competitions were cancelled. Your coach was asked for two years: What other comps can SNC attend? But due to communication issues cited above, it was difficult to arrange those competitions.

Beyond that, I have offered to buy matching jackets and sweatshirts so you can be wearing SNC gear on the podium. The freeski team, however, was the only team that accepted my offer and wore hockey jerseys on the podium and in their videos.

If I had favoritism for my soccer teams, we would stay in nice condos, make our own home-cooked meals, and sleep one person to a bed. Yet, we are cramped in vans, sleep four in a hotel room, and eat on the road. Lacrosse experiences the same travel environment, which is less comfortable than the intercollegiate programs we compete against.

Many of the schools you compete against are club sports and raise their own funds, but here at SNC they have sponsored your sport fully. This year the championships are in New York. This is a huge budget year for winter sports, so any extra competitions have to be examined closely. From a budgetary perspective and a student life perspective as well, winter sports aren’t the only offerings anymore. Winter sports recruiting numbers dropped significantly, even when the school had the coaches you speak of, and so SNC added lacrosse, soccer, golf, and cross country to help grow enrollment. SNC could no longer solely depend on its winter sports programs anymore, but winter sports still have a healthy budget like our other sports.

SNC and its board members have seen the importance of athletic growth here as central to the entrepreneurial mission of our school. We now have a voice louder than before. I have taken great strides and have listened to all sides and welcome you or any other athlete to come in to give new ideas.

I would love to meet with you to discuss any future concerns as my primary goal is to provide the best experience for all of our student-athletes, especially those winter sports athletes who have brought great pride to our institution.

Chris DeLeon is athletic director at Sierra Nevada College.