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Volleyball Coach Olson under investigation for ‘unprofessional behavior toward athletes'

Gregory Cornwell | Staff Photographer Head coach Erik Olson talks to the team during a timeout Thursday evening at McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas lost 3-0 against Eastern Michigan.

Volleyball Coach Erik Olson was put on paid administrative leave after the Faculty Association received a complaint that he “engaged in unprofessional behavior toward the athletes.”

Olson has been on leave since Oct. 6. After 42 days and the end of the volleyball season, CMU is still conducting its investigation.

A meeting was scheduled between Olson and representatives of Intercollegiate College Athletics, Faculty Personnel Services and the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equality. Because the volleyball coach is considered a faculty member, Olson has the right to have a representative from the union present.

Central Michigan Life requested comment from Olson. He did not respond.

CM Life also contacted Director of Faculty Personnel Services Dennis Armistead. He declined to say if the meeting has taken place or go into further detail about Olson’s situation. Armistead stated in an e-mail to CM Life “it would be premature and inappropriate for anyone at CMU or FPS to publicly share details or invite speculation about the process.”

CM Life received Olson’s personnel file through a Freedom of Information Act request. Among the hundreds of pages of documents is his 2014-15 performance review.

The review consisted of comments from Olson and from his supervisor. Olson reported to former CMU Senior Associate Athletics Director Marcy Weston, who retired in March. He now reports to Cristy Freese.

In the review, Olson said, “I believe I am one of the best all-around coaches in the (athletic) department, with a good grasp on all aspects of the athletic departmen(t) and my program.”

He also said he is “the only head coach in the department who personally meets with their (student-athletes) on a regular basis.”

Olson further said he did not see “an increase in performance by support staff.” He added it is a cultural problem in the athletic department and said Athletic Communications and the Training Room continue to be the “biggest weaknesses” of the athletic department.

Weston stated Olson was more “even-keel” last year when engaging marketing, ticket and facility staff. She also mentioned “style differences” between Olson and his male assistant coaches.

Olson responded in the performance review by stating “I don’t really why this came up as an issue??? This is out of left field. (Assistant Coach) Adam Rollman is an assistant without ego and gets the concept of being an assistant.” He also stated he is preparing his assistant coaches for head coaching positions at the Division I level. Former assistant coach Mitch Kallick is now the head coach at Hartford.

Olson also commented on four players who transferred between 2012-14 on June 29. He mentioned an increase in the transfer rate in collegiate volleyball stating 267 players transferred nationally in Division I in 2013, up from the 95 in 2010.

Melissa Fuchs (Houston Baptist), Jordan Timmer (George Washington) and Andrea Gothard (Michigan State) are three of the four players who have transferred. The Chippewas have added three more players to that list after a trio departed last year’s team with eligibility remaining.

Setter Kylie Copple transferred to Portland State following last season. Libero Kristen Reenders and defensive specialist Nicole Czehowski also departed the program.

CM Life attempted to contact these athletes but they did not respond. 

Weston stated in her May 7 comments, “Too many (student-athletes) have left our (volleyball) program, for seemingly valid reasons. Are we recruiting the ‘right’ (student-athlete) for CMU? Coaches have to make that decision.”

Weston also stated, “(Olson) must identify/add the attributes needed to realize success on the court that translates into winning more MAC matches. While injury and transfers have negatively affected outcomes, introspective analysis must equate to more MAC wins.”

Weston commented that Olson needed to analyze how he manages the program and that the team is moving closer to the middle-third of the MAC, she explained.

"This is the most I have disagreed with Marcy in an evaluation, and I would say it says a lot about how much less she was involved in the last (two) seasons, not much," Olson responded. "We would have liked to have seen her more involved, so she could understand the multiple situations in play affecting our ability to perform consistently at our top level. I thought she understood, but what is important is that my AD (Heeke) understands.”

On April 16, 2014, Weston vouched for Olson and his staff in the head coach’s 2013 end of year Performance Evaluation after Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said the volleyball staff was “negative” that morning.

Weston stated Olson did not make the 2013 MAC Tournament, in part, because of a setter transferring due to not starting as a freshman. Timmer was a freshman setter on the volleyball team in 2012.

She stated Olson has coached the Chippewas in the top half of the MAC in six of his first 10 years, and she wanted to extend Olson’s current contract (which expires Dec. 31, 2016) to 2020.

According to his file, in 2009 he conducted an instructional clinic during a dead period with a prospective student-athlete in attendance, which is against NCAA rules. Olson was not disciplined for the actions. In fact, Olson himself reported the violation to the MAC Office of Compliance.

Although he is accused of unprofessional behavior, his personnel file also includes a positive letter to Olson from a student-athlete in January 2007. She stated she “always felt comfortable coming into (Olson’s) office at any time.” She stated Olson’s “players want to play for (him).” She thanked him for helping her become a better player and person.

“I think you have incredible knowledge about the game, and any player that comes through this program or is coached under you will without a doubt improve tenfold under your instruction,” the player stated.

In addition, a letter was sent to Olson from the father of an eighth-grade volleyball player on Nov. 22, 2014, after watching a match between Western Michigan and CMU, the final match of the season for the Chippewas. The Broncos won 3-2 a week earlier.

The father stated, “accept my kudos for coaching a team that a father and his aspiring volleyball playing daughter thoroughly enjoyed watching compete."

Olson was hired as head coach in 2004 after serving three seasons as an assistant coach at Miami (Florida). He compiled a 161-183 record before he was placed on a paid leave of absence. He won the MAC Tournament once, in 2011.

Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman and assistant coaches Adam Rollman and Kelly Maxwell collectively coached the team after Oct. 6. The CMU volleyball team ended its season on Saturday with a loss at Ball State, coming one spot short of making the MAC Tournament for the first time since 2012.

The Chippewas earned a 6-11 record and 1-3 MAC record before Olson began his leave of absence. They finished 5-7 without Olson.


About Evan Sasiela

Evan Sasiela is the University Editor at Central Michigan Life and a senior at Central Michigan ...

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