How should a person who has dedicated 40 years' worth of service be treated at the end of a career - a career that includes national recognition for success in the realm of athletics, as a coach, athletic director and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee?
Well, in Central Pennsylvania, it is done with a demotion and a slander campaign. No, believe it or not we are not talking about Penn State and Joe Paterno. This lack of respect is being shown to a woman who has spent her life fighting for equal rights for our daughters, sisters, nieces and granddaughters through a tireless battle to incorporate Title IX into the realm of education.
Sharon Taylor, a 1966 graduate of Lock Haven University, returned to the "Haven" in 1972 to become the field hockey coach and a member of the faculty of this small but mighty institution. She was then promoted to athletic director in 1988, after acting as interim AD in 1987. For several generations of men and women athletes, she has become not only a coach, but also a mentor and friend.
A local organization calling itself PLOW (Preserving the Legacy of Wrestling), which began from a group of five men, started a campaign to have Taylor removed as athletic director. PLOW contended that women's teams at the university were successful only because she discriminated against men's teams in favor of women's teams. Many of us, friends and admirers of Ms. Taylor, were appalled by this accusation, but she asked us to remain calm and not react negatively. For the most part we did just that. But it has been painful to watch the damage this campaign has had not only on our coach and friend but also on the university and the Lock Haven community.
PLOW's concerns apparently stem from the inability of the university's football team and the wrestling squad to generate the same kind of national attention that the softball, field hockey and lacrosse teams have achieved. The women's teams, through hard work, have had winning seasons and have won national championships. But, instead of applauding the hard work of teams, PLOW chose to attack Sharon Taylor, and it did it on a personal level, insinuating she was ensuring the success of the women's teams at the expense of all other athletics programs. What happened to the days when we applauded players for the sacrifices they make to become the best? If the athletic director was a man and the men's teams were winning championships, would we be hearing this kind of criticism?
Controversy aside, Ms. Taylor was approaching retirement and proposed two scenarios for leaving, both of which were rejected. In response to PLOW's public campaign of vilification - and acrimonious litigation that has ensued - the hierarchy of the State System of Higher Education, as well as the new president of the university, made a unilateral decision to demote Ms. Taylor. As of June 1, 2012, she will be forced to return to the classroom to teach. It is apparently Pennsylvania's way of saying thank you for the seven national championships that have been achieved under Ms. Taylor's watch and that have brought acclaim and recognition to our state and the community of Lock Haven.
We believe Ms. Taylor deserves better.
Our question to you, Pennsylvanians, is do we really want to be known for showing this kind of blatant disrespect for a job well done?
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Sandy Sheesley is a member of the LHU Class of 1982, Division II National Field Hockey Champion 1981, and is a retired Alameda County deputy sheriff after 24 years of service.
Roxanne Gustitis is a member of the LHU Class 1982, Division II National Field Hockey Champion 1981 and president DesertMountain Technical Sales Inc.