WALLA WALLA, Wash. Ė A new staff position aimed at strengthening the athletics program at Whitman College takes effect on July 1 and will be filled by a familiar face, the college has announced.
Skip Molitor, the menís basketball coach and faculty member in the athletics department for the past 14 years, is resigning those duties to become assistant athletic director in charge of development, community relations and club sports.
The new staff position will "provide substantive support to the athletic director as Whitman implements strategies toward advancing excellence in athletics," Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lori Bettison-Varga said.
Dean Snider, Whitmanís athletic director, said a national search for a new menís basketball coach is underway.
"After 33 years in the coaching profession, including the last 14 at Whitman, Skip has decided to shift gears and serve our department by stepping into this new role," Snider said. "His professional skill set is one that fits tremendously well with this new staff position. He is a great addition to our athletics leadership team, which includes womenís basketball coach Michelle Ferenz as the senior womenís administrator and womenís soccer coach Scott Shields as assistant athletic director in charge of NCAA compliance."
Bettison-Varga said Molitor will work alongside Snider in a "position designed to enhance the student-athlete experience through promoting team events, directing club sports and working with volunteer leaders of the newly formed W Club. The W Club was established to enhance excellence in varsity athletics through targeted fundraising initiatives and to better connect alumni, parents, faculty, staff and students to the varsity athletic experience."
"Skip will also serve as womenís varsity golf coach," Bettison-Varga said. "Finally, Skip will provide much-needed leadership for Whitmanís highly successful club sports."
Molitor, a native of Ephrata, Wash., earned his bachelorís degree in English and education in 1974 at Gonzaga University, where he was a two-year starting point guard on the basketball team, earned honorable mention all-conference recognition, and led the Zags in steals and assists. He completed his masterís degree in guidance and counseling at Gonzaga in 1978.
Before coming to Whitman, Molitor was a menís assistant basketball coach at five NCAA Div. I schools -- Gonzaga, Washington State, Colorado State, Santa Clara and the University of Montana. He also was the head coach at Gonzaga Prep for five seasons and at two Montana high schools for three years.
"Last year was the 33rd year of coaching for me, and while itís something I still enjoy, I want to make the transition away from coaching at a point in my professional life when there is still time to make a real difference with my new responsibilities," Molitor said.
"Weíre very excited about having Skip work in the development realm of Whitman athletics," Snider said. "This is an outstanding time for Whitman to bring more focus to bear on further development of our athletic programs. There are many great opportunities to not only broaden our base of resources, but to also create stronger ties to our alumni as well as the Walla Walla community. The potential to create win-win relationships is enormous, and we want to realize as much of that potential as possible."
"Everyone in Whitman athletics is thrilled that several influential alumni and friends of the college have helped with formation of the W Club," Snider added. "Five or 10 years from now weíre going to look back at the inception of this booster club as something that was integral in the process of helping Whitman athletics compete at the highest possible level, both within the Northwest Conference and on the regional and national stages."
Molitor will also provide leadership for a menís and womenís club sport program that ranges from lacrosse, rugby, cycling and ultimate Frisbee to snowboarding, ice hockey and fencing. "We have several club sport programs that are very active and very successful," Snider said. "There is definite consensus in favor of providing more supervision and support for those student athletes."
Molitor, who played four seasons of varsity golf at Gonzaga, said he is "very excited about coaching the womenís golf team. This program has great potential for success, and itís important that it receives more time and attention."
Molitor also served as the menís golf coach for one season at Gonzaga and later coached a girlís high school team to a Montana state title. "My family and I have enjoyed golf for as long as I can remember," he said. "Two of my brothers attended Seattle University on golf scholarships, and I have a nephew who played professionally for a time. One of my cousins, Dave Molitor, was a Pac-10 champion as an Oregon State undergraduate, and he now coaches the menís team at Idaho State."
Molitor and his spouse Amy, a faculty member in the Whitman Environmental Studies program, have two daughters Ė Denali, a sophomore at Walla Walla High School, and Kiana, a sixth-grade student at Garrison Middle School.
As he prepares for his new staff position, Molitor tipped his hat to "our college administrators Ė President George Bridges, Provost Lori Bettison-Varga and Athletics Director Dean Snider Ė for their willingness to make this new investment in an athletics program that is very important to our student athletes. This additional support will enhance the opportunities and experiences our student athletes will have in the future."
Whitman, which changed its national athletic affiliation from the NAIA to the NCAA in the mid-1990s, has improved its athletic facilities in a number of areas. The Baker Ferguson Fitness Center, which includes the Paul Harvey Pool, opened in 2006, and renovation of the Sherwood Athletic Center began this year. Earlier improvements include a new indoor tennis facility and outdoor soccer complex.
"As weíve improved our facilities and made the transition to the NCAA while trying to raise our competitive level, there needs to be a greater commitment to the human infrastructure, and thatís what the college is doing at this point," Snider said.
Snider, who is finishing his third year as athletics director, said the new staff position is part of wide-ranging effort to provide the best possible program for student athletes. "The pursuit of excellence in athletics at a school of Whitmanís high academic standing requires a multi-faceted approach," Snider said. "This new position is one of the strategies we are implementing."