Monday, April 29, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 26 Bill Schnier to Retire after 33 Seasons at the University of Cincinnati

Sports - Track and Field - University of Cincinnati


12 conference championships
25 NCAA national meet qualifiers
10 All-Americans
2 Olympic medalists (David Payne and Mary Wineberg)
15-time conference Coach of the Year awards
Conference USA Coach of the Decade (1995-2005)
47 of 53 UC records were set during his tenure. 

For several months now, I've known that one of my best friends in the world, Bill Schnier, long time track and cross country coach has been getting ready to retire.  I've written several pieces to put into this blog that would recognize and honor him for all he has contributed to the University of Cincinnati and the sport of track and field over the years.  But I kept putting off placing them in the blog, because I thought the day would never really arrive.  Bill  and I both had goals of becoming college track coaches back in the early 70's.  But as Bill would say.  He had a  plan, and it paid off, for himself, his family, and for the university.   

 Below is the piece I wrote last Fall. Following that is a press release from the University of Cincinnati, and last but probably the best article is a recently written blog entry from Bill Koch who writes  about U. of Cincinnati sports. In it you will be able to read what Bill's concerns are about the future of college athletics.  

October, 2012

I recently received the following press release from the U. of Cincinnati announcing Bill Schnier's pending retirement.  Although there are many nice things said about Bill in this announcement, they only begin to scratch the surface in describing this unique individual.  Bill is foremost a teacher descending from two parents who were both teachers.   He started his coaching career teaching high school and coaching track, but he has always carried the educator in his persona.  He is not a guy who just hangs the workouts on the wall and expects his runners to follow that advice and perform. He is  foremost a person who cares about the future of his athletes, not just the performances they put on the track.  I've known Bill since we were both graduate students, he at Indiana University being mentored by Sam Bell.  When he left IU to take on the unenviable job of coaching track and cross country at Cincinnati, he picked up a program that was in shambles (the track a war zone covered in broken glass ) and made it a force to be reckoned with in several conferences until now the university is moving on from its 8 years in  the Big East.  In the past ten years he has seen the scholarships in his men's program dwindle down to zero, but his teams are still a force to be feared in their conference.  What does that say about a program, competing well in a good Division One conference without scholarships?  It says that your athletes are scholars who happen to be able to run.  One of his former  athletes is Lewis Johnson who does some announcing for NBC when track is occasionally televised.  In the Beijing Olympics two of his athletes won medals,  Mary Weinberg in the 4x400 (gold) and David Payne 110HH (silver).   I don't think the university realizes quite what they will be missing when Bill retires.   I'm sure his working days are not over either, he seems a lot younger than his birth certificate lets on, and he has a deep interest in a lot of different fields.  Bill is also an historian, and it is evident when one rides through Cincinnati with him as he points out hundreds of unknown or forgotten features in the city.  Furthermore his own family is one to be envied.  You never saw a home track meet at Cincy that wasn't attended and worked by his wife Kathy and children Lorraine, Ellen, and Keller.  Kathy and Lorraine teach at the same high school, Ellen works in TV production in Cincinnati, and Keller is a civil engineer in North Carolina.  ed.  
                                       Bill with Eric Finan, All American XC
                                   and the top distance runner in the Big East
                                                    in 2010 and 2011
Bill Schnier, as the University of Cincinnati sees him, 
Bill Schnier, who is beginning his 33rd year at the University of Cincinnati, has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2012-13 seasons.
Schnier came to UC in 1980 and has led the Bearcats men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams to unprecedented success. UC track and field and cross country teams have won 12 of the school’s 15 conference team titles and 160 individual/relay titles since Schnier arrived. There have been 25 student-athletes who have earned qualification for NCAA national championships, 10 of which went on to become All-Americans. The men’s cross country indoor and outdoor track and field teams have won the All-Ohio championship eight times under Schnier’s tutelage. Two student-athletes have gone on to win Olympic medals.
“I have spent my entire professional career attempting to build teams of quality, so retirement is only a concept to me, more relevant to someone else,” Schnier said. “I will very much miss not having a team to coach. However, it is my turn to pass the baton to a younger coach and enter a different phase of my life.  “Serving UC, over 1000 athletes and their parents, and the sport which I love has been an honor. It has been a joy to watch so many people walk through the years from 18 to 22, then see them be even more productive after college. UC gave me the opportunity to do this and I, in turn, simply passed that opportunity on to others. Almost all of them made the most of their opportunity to better themselves and the team. All of my 33 years have been well spent.”
Schnier has been named conference coach of the year 15 times and was twice selected as Ohio cross country coach of the year. He was named the Conference USA coach of the decade in both cross country and track and field. An astounding 47 of programs' 53 school records were set during his time at UC. He coached such notables as NBC Olympic track and field analyst Lewis Johnson and Olympic medalists David Payne and Mary Wineberg. It was also under Schnier’s watch that the UC women’s track and field and cross country program was formed.
In October, he will be inducted into UC's James P. Kelly, Sr. Hall of Fame. Induction into the UC athletics hall of fame will be the fourth hall of fame for Schnier. He was previously inducted into the Capital University Hall of Fame and the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was inducted into the Greater Cincinnati Running Hall of Fame in recognition for his volunteer work and involvement with the local running community in addition to his status as a standout coach in the area.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Bill over the past year and I am better off for it,” said UC director of athletics Whit Babcock. “He is a coach in the truest sense of the word.  He has certainly been successful competition-wise, however his legacy at UC will reach well beyond just wins and losses.  He has impacted thousands of student-athletes in such a positive manner and helped them grow as men and women.  Coach Schnier possesses integrity and he promotes sportsmanship, academic achievement and teamwork.  He is cut from the John Wooden cloth.  I can’t thank him enough for his service to UC and our student-athletes.  He’s a gentleman, a true Bearcat, and I wish him and Kathy the best in this next chapter of his life.” 
Schnier is also in his 46th year working in education. He began his career at Trotwood-Madison High School where he taught history and coached track and field for seven seasons, leading his team to a second-place finish in the Ohio State AAA championship meet in 1975. He then spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Indiana before coming to UC in 1980.
Many of Schnier’s most special achievements have encompassed academics and character. Of the student-athletes that he has coached at UC, 16 have won the prestigious Jimmy Nippert Award, honoring the most outstanding male senior student-athlete. He has also coached three winners of the Helen Norman Smith award, honoring the top female student-athlete, and four winners of the Jean Stephens Award, honoring the UC student-athlete that best exemplifies integrity, commitment to the team, athletic department and equitable treatment of others.
Schnier is a 1966 graduate of Capital University where he played baseball for two years before switching to track and field. He set the Capital record for the outdoor 800 meters (1:54.14) and was a member of the record-setting outdoor 4x800 meters relay team (7:51.04), both of which are still school records to date. He earned master's degrees from Wright State University and Indiana University in 1977 and in 1987 earned a doctorate in human performance from Indiana.
Schnier is married to the former Kathy Henn. The couple has three adult children: Lorraine, Ellen and Keller. 
The UC department of athletics will recognize Schnier during the Oct. 6 Homecoming football game.
Sports - Track and Field - University of Cincinnati
We should all be as happy in our work as Bill Schnier has been while coaching the men’s cross country and track and field teams at the University of Cincinnati for the past 33 years.  Schnier’s teams have won 12 conference titles. He has coached Olympic medalists Mary Wineberg and David Payne and produced 10 All-Americans. He has been inducted into four halls of fame and was voted Conference USA coach of the decade in 2005.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said in his office earlier this week.
But he won’t be doing it much longer. The 68-year-old Schnier, who is not only the longest-tenured coach at UC but also the longest-tenured employee in the athletic department, has decided to retire effective June 30.
“Little by little it’s becoming less fun,” Schnier said. “Not the going to practice or going to meets, certainly not the athletes themselves, but just the whole ambiance of athletics in general.”
Since Schnier arrived at UC in 1980, the Bearcats have competed in four different conferences – the Metro, the Great Midwest, Conference USA and the Big East – and starting next year they will compete in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. He has worked for five presidents and seven different athletic directors. During his 33 years at the school, the Bearcats have had 10 football coaches and five basketball coaches.
As athletic directors and conferences have come and gone, Schnier has done his best to remain true to his fundamental belief that athletics are part of the university’s mission of developing students in body, mind and spirit.
He will leave with no regrets and an abundance of cherished relationships, but also with concern over the future of college athletics. He worries about the wisdom of recent conference shuffling that seems to have little to do with the well-being of student-athletes and everything to do with television money.
“I’ve never talked to one person, either a sports person or a non-sports person, who thinks this is a good idea, because it truly doesn’t make any sense unless the only thing you’re possibly interested in is the bottom line, and in that case it makes a lot of sense,” Schnier said 
 Lost in the pursuit of television money, he said, are traditional league rivalries between schools of similar size and mission who are also compatible geographically. As a result, after next year UC will no longer be in the same conference as longtime rival Louisville, but will play in a far-flung league with schools such as Central Florida and SMU largely because of the desire among the nation’s top football schools to cash in huge sums of money from ESPN and other networks.“I think maybe ESPN has gotten to be too big,” Schnier said. “It looks like ESPN is the tail wagging the dog. The vehicle is football.”It was largely because of UC’s desire to grow its football program, Schnier said, that former UC athletic director Mike Thomas defunded scholarships for men’s track and cross country in 2009. Schnier soldiered on without the scholarships and still managed to recruit quality athletes by selling the school’s academic advantages. (The scholarships are now being restored under current athletic director Whit Babcock)
.“The demands of football were so great that someone had to pay for football, someone had to pay for administrations,” Schnier said. “It had to do with the insatiable appetite of one coach who threatened to leave if he didn’t get everything. He got everything and still left. That’s selling your soul.“In the image of most people out there, we like to appreciate Robin Hood because he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, but really in college athletics to a great extent we’re robbing from the poor to give to the rich.”
Schnier has seen a shift in emphasis away from what he believes is the true value of athletics – to help student-athletes grow as individuals through competition.“The bottom line is the answer to every question,” he said. “I don’t find that very interesting, and I don’t find that very healthy in an academic setting. We are still a university, and I certainly don’t find it very satisfying in an educational institution where making money is not the mission of the school, but creating an opportunity for education and relationships (is).”
The UC athletic department has made great strides during Schnier’s tenure. The Bearcats’ eight-year stay in the Big East Conference enhanced their national profile, especially in football.
But some things haven’t changed or have come full circle. When Schnier started at UC in 1980, the Bearcats were in the Metro Conference, which he described as basically a group of schools that had nowhere else to go. Now in 2013 they’re about to enter the AAC because they again have no viable alternative.
“UC in 1980 was very different inasmuch as we didn’t have much money and now we do,” Schnier said. “Now we have an enormous amount of money in comparison, but just like in 1980 it’s still not enough. Now it’s an all-out pursuit for more money. If we don’t have that money, we can’t keep up with the Joneses.”
Money aside, Schnier believes the athletic department at any school should be an integral part of the university community, a place where student-athletes are no different from regular students in the sense that they go to college to get an education and prepare to lead a productive life.
“What do we learn from sports?” Schnier said. “We usually learn how to go out and do something unrelated to sports better.

“That’s the value of what we do. I would like to think that the people who are on this team go out and do something more important than high jump or run the hundred.”

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