Recollections on My Last Games in My Last Tournament from the Stands

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet

I don't believe the CWPA Board of Directors knew how hurtful it was to me not to be on the deck with the Slippery Rock team for its last games. The Commissioner, Dan Sharadin, and the Board of Directors banned me from coaching any of the last three games of my coaching career. I am 72 years of age and that opportunity to be with such a fine and courageous Slippery Rock team and coach on the deck for their last games will NEVER come again. Assume that what Dan said about me verbally intimidating referees in a parking lot was true (which it wasn't) then compare this one negative action to all the positive actions I have done for water polo in my career and you would realize that in the scheme of things and in the words of Humphrey Bogart the negative action "Wouldn't have amounted to a hill of beans". And to deny me the chance to go out in style by sitting on the bench with the bravest group of players and coach in the history of CWPA water polo is to me unconscionable.

Most people in their lifetime will never have to endure the "slings and arrows of outrageous" looks, comments, and retaliation from University Administrators, Athletic Directors, faculty, coaches, and other athletes that the Slippery Rock team and coach did for filing a Title IX suit against their university. Add to this two very inconsistent referees on three critical games before the Division championships and you have lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite.

Some examples of this abuse and disappointment to the women players and coach follows:

The coup de grâce was when the President cut the women's water polo team twice - he cut them before the Title IX suit and again after the Title IX suit was settled. They had to go through the ordeal of not just being cut once but of being cut twice. (I was told by a very reliable source that when the CWPA Commissioner called the Athletic Director about the Rock losing their program he spent more time trying to talk the AD into having a club team than he did about saving the varsity program.) The President said he cut the men's and women's water polo teams and the other six teams to save $350,000. Well the President's shirt must be on fire because that money today is being spent on the teams that were not cut resulting in a savings of zero dollars. It appears he cut the team the second time out of spite because they filed the Title IX suit.

So you see the women on the water polo team and their coach should be awarded a kind of Purple Heart for being tread upon by the university community for several years and awarded a kind of Medal of Honor for their actions above and beyond the call to duty for women's sports in general and water polo in particular. These are the outstanding people I asked the Commissioner and Board of Directors to let me end my coaching career with and what was their answer a resounding, "NO". The only bright spot is that the committee that decides the guilt and innocence of a person accused of misconduct and the committee who recommends the type and amount of punishment. This committee is called the Board of Review and they recommended that I be able to coach Slippery Rock's first game, be suspended the second game, and be able to help coach the third game so Slippery Rock would not have to have a student coach for the first game. This recommendation, however, was ignored. My undying gratitude goes out to the members of this committee.

Dan Sharadin and the Board of Directors may think that my complaint of not being allowed to help coach this very special team is "much ado about nothing" but to me it meant a great deal because it meant the difference between closing out my career as a spectator and closing it out as one of the coaches of this incredible group of women. Sitting in the stands and watching those very special women play and Jim Yeamans coach (Jim has shown more courage, compassion, and fortitude in his little toe than all the Directors and Dan have in their collected hard heads) made me both proud and sad at the same time - proud that I had a chance to know and help coach these women and that I had a chance to be able to know and coach the hundreds of men and women who played for one of my teams (to include Gensh a board member) and sad that I won’t get to meet and coach hundreds more players on a green and white Slippery Rock team simple because of a President who is too short sighted to see the benefits of water polo and who is too vindictive to give the women a second chance.

Speaking of second chances I am going to quote the last paragraph of  a five paragraph letter and single request I sent to the Board of Directors and a request the Board of Directors didn't even have the common decency to answer:

I don't know about you but when I was young I needed second chances. In fact if it were not for second chances I wouldn't be here today. Well, I have found out when you get old and have come full circle you also need second chances and that is what I asked for in my very first email to the Board of Review. They were willing to give me a second chance and if you allow Dan to take away their recommended second chance it will be disingenuous not only to any water polo sacrifices and accomplishments I have made but also to the work done by the members of the Board of Review. Don't you think this is a very high price for anyone in our sport to pay for a non-violent action in a water polo game, especially someone ending his career? After all it is just a game - you and I don't believe that about water polo for a New York second. I am requesting that you follow the recommendation made by the Board of Review.  Finally, those of you who know me well know that if I thought my actions were in anyway detrimental to our sport, the sport I love, then I wouldn't be making this request.

This article may sound to you like I am bitter but I am not. I am more disappointed than anything else. I know many of the members of the Board of Directors and they are actually good old boys – there are no women on the Board. When they realize that they denied a friend and colleague his last chance to help coach the last games of Slippery Rock University they will regret what they did by the time they reach my age.  That regret will be a far greater punishment than I could ever give them. I have been in water polo as a player, coach, administrator and writer for over 55 years so I am a good friend to regret. My only advice to them comes from an old Chinese proverb, “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.”

As for Dan Sharadin we have had a long history of disagreements and most of them are caused by the fact that I don't think he can walk on water and when I write about him I write about his good traits and his bad traits. In fact he probably has a few more good traits than he has bad traits. This time, however, I think he crossed the line of what even a benevolent dictator would or should do. I have come to realize now that this was a pure and simple case of retaliation against me for making comments and writing articles about him on WPP web site and the fact that the WPP has an open message board where he and his beloved CWPA can be criticized anonymously. If he thinks what he did to me will stop me from writing about him and the CWPA then he must think you can put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it. So Danny boy from now on I will see you not in the funny pages but from the stands and I will talk to you through my articles and comments on the WPP web site.

I am going to close on a more positive note by once again praising the excellent work of the current Slippery Rock women’s water polo team and their caring coach. I am going to praise them by using three quotes. The first explains why they stood up for the Title IX suit against all odds and it was written by Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like the rock.” The second is by Vince Lombardi and it is very true of this group of athletes and coach, "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor" The last has been shown by both their actions and words over and over again, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give - Norman MacEwan."

SRU Women's Water Polo Team 08