McPherson College softball players given unconditional release from program after communication breakdown by group decision

By Nick Gosnell
February 07, 2015
McPherson College

Former McPherson College softball players Jenna Kaiser and her sister Kristin were given their unconditional release in December by the school after a repeated pattern of behavior that was detrimental to the team.

Mid Kansas Online News Editor Nick Gosnell met with Doug Quint, Athletic Director at the time of the incident, new Athletic director Andrew Ehling and Head Coach Ashley Spencer to set the record straight about the college's actions in their relationship with the athletes following the publication of an article in Friday's Wichita Eagle.

The Eagle article, written by Tony Adame, cited "bullying and harassment accusations" as the cause of the athletes' dismissal. Quint, Ehling and Spencer made it clear that was not the case.

An initial inquiry by another member of the softball team regarding the sisters' behavior was never formalized as an apology was made and the school thought the matter was closed.

Quint said, "No charges were ever filed, in any way, shape or form."

A lack of clear communication between the Kaisers and Coach Spencer appears to be at the center of the issue.

Spencer said, "Whether it be husband and wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, player to coach, anything like that, you start with trust, if you can trust that person or not. whether you can go on and build something with them. And, build a team with multiple players as well, because if that one person can't trust you, they can go and tell somebody else the same stuff too and it continues to trickle down.

Jenna Kaiser made several attempts to speak to Quint about the issues, but he made it clear that he wanted her to speak with Spencer so that they could get on the same page first.

Quint said, "You need to go talk with your coach and be open about how things are different and what you could do to fit in, or whatever problems you're having. That's where trust starts."

Quint then advised her, "After you visit with your coach, come back and see me and let me know how it went."

According to Quint and Spencer, that conversation between Jenna Kaiser and Spencer that was advised by Quint never took place.

This is Spencer's first season at the Bulldog helm, replacing long-time coach Mike McCormick, who is now an assistant at Bethany.

Kristin Kaiser spoke postively of McCormick in a letter to the editor written in September for her English composition class that was sent to the McPherson Sentinel by the professor, Leland Williams, and published in that newspaper November 11th.

"I am writing this letter to tell you about a great asset to the McPherson community.

Seventeen years ago a man named Mike McCormick decided to make a softball program for McPherson‚ÄąCollege. He recruited players from all across the country, bringing students to the school. As one of the students recruited by Mike, I can honestly say that I came to McPherson because I wanted Mike as a coach. If Mike would not have been the coach of McPherson, I would not have come.

Mike retired 17 years after starting the program. Missed by his players and even the parents, Mike has started assistant coaching at another college in the area.

The players have high hopes for the softball program, but know that it just won’t be the same without him."

The Eagle stated that the allegations of bullying and harassment were brought forth by Spencer.

Dean of Students Shay Maclin said that was not the case, and that the conflict between the fellow player and the Kaisers appeared to be resolved from her perspective in November.

Maclin said, "Coach Spencer and I had a series of meetings with the young ladies and the team to talk about the issues and the perception of one of the students, who was really concerned about the potential of being harassed or bullied. The other student did not realize that was how she was being perceived."

However, once that initial issue was resolved and charges were not filed, then it became the coach's decision again as to whether or not the players would continue in the program.

In fact, as late as the meeting between each of the Kaisers and Coach Spencer prior to the holiday break, it appeared that the program was moving on and the players would be retained.

It was then, however, that the athletes told Coach Spencer that they were recording the final meeting before break on the advice of legal counsel.

Spencer kept the topic of the meeting to the same ones she went through with any athlete, where they are on their training, how they are getting home for the holidays, etc.

It was after that when the decision was made not to retain the athletes at McPherson College.

That said, the unconditional release was just that. In fact, the players could have enrolled and played at another KCAC school or any other institution as soon as the second semester, if they so chose.

Quint, Ehling and Spencer wanted to emphasize that none of the actions in this matter were taken independently.

"All of us worked together as a team on this, and there wasn't one decision that was made, from one side, or one department, that the other department didn't agree with, or knew about."

Spencer, for her part, is still excited about the program as a whole and is looking to move forward.

"We start next week with our opening weekend, and it's just as exciting as it was before, because that's what I'm here for. I'm here to build a team, and I'm here to be a part of something that's bigger than themselves. And, that's exactly what we're still doing."