With the hiring of Gilroy native Nikki Dequin as the interim
head coach of its softball team, it looks like Gavilan College is
attempting to leave the program’s controversial past behind.
On one hand, that’s a good thing. On the other
… maybe not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a
controversy-free future for the program. But I also hope that
people don’t forget the past.
With the hiring of Gilroy native Nikki Dequin as the interim head coach of its softball team, it looks like Gavilan College is attempting to leave the program’s controversial past behind.
On one hand, that’s a good thing. On the other … maybe not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a controversy-free future for the program. But I also hope that people don’t forget the past.
First, a little history to get everyone up to speed. In March, former head coach Tim Kenworthy was not offered tenure at Gavilan. Upset with the decision and with the way he felt Gavilan treated his program and other women’s sports, Kenworthy filed an official Title IX complaint on March 14, alleging that the college discriminates against female athletes and that he did not receive tenure because of his advocacy on behalf of the softball team.
I don’t know if Kenworthy deserved tenure or not and we won’t know the results of the in-progress Title IX investigation until it wraps up several months from now. But one thing is clear. Kenworthy brought many positives to the softball program and that shouldn’t be overlooked. He led this year’s team to a 20-win season (a rarity for the program), unified a squad that had been at odds in the past and earned strong loyalty and support from many of the players he coached. He and assistant coach Bruce Nicholson also personally went above and beyond the call of duty to bring the formerly pathetic softball field up to par with collegiate playing standards.
But I don’t think Gavilan was ever going to go back on its decision, no matter how many people protested.
With no disrespect to Kenworthy, I’m happy to see Dequin get the job as interim head softball coach. Dequin, who has spent the last five years on the coaching staff at De Anza and is a former Gilroy High, Gavilan and San Jose State player, clearly has all the qualities you could want in a new coach. She’s got college coaching and playing experience, the latter of which means she’s been where her players are and will be able to relate to them. Not to mention, she’s only 27 – not too far removed from the ages of her players to be out of touch, but far removed enough that they’ll respect her authority as a professional. She’s also a local product. She knows the history of the Gavilan program – both good and bad – and will hopefully use that knowledge to improve it.
You can’t help but look at the track record of sports at Gavilan and wonder why the women’s teams haven’t operated under the same consistency and success that the men’s teams have. Is the athletic department to blame? Perhaps. Could lack of interest on the part of female student-athletes have something to do with it? Maybe. My guess is that it’s been a combination of both.
And you can’t forget what I like to call the “San Jose Effect.” Many would-be students choose to go to the city to attend community college. Some even opt to head to the other side of the mountain to Cabrillo. This has caused enrollment problems at Gavilan. Naturally, the effect has trickled down to athletics as well. However, that still isn’t quite a sufficient explanation, considering that females make up 61 percent of all Gavilan students. Male student-athletes have not seen their sports suffer as much, despite the fact they are the minority gender.
Athletic director Ron Hannon has pointed out several steps the college is taking to improve women’s athletics at Gavilan. The school added women’s volleyball for this fall, the fourth women’s sport to be added since 2000-2001, when there were none. Some $50,000-worth of improvements – including an outfield fence and scoreboard – will be made to the softball field for next season. And the women’s basketball program will be up and running this winter after a year off.
I think hiring Nikki Dequin is another step in the right direction.
At the end of this year’s softball season, a few players told me only a couple of the 10 players who had eligibility remaining would play next season if Kenworthy wasn’t returning. It’s my hope that those players will reconsider returning for next year to play for Dequin and finish the turnaround that they started with Kenworthy. I would hope that they feel a responsibility towards helping to keep the Gavilan softball program alive.
Despite all that’s gone on, I think ultimately, that’s what Kenworthy would want.