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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary's is losing proven winner

As a former member of the Saint Mary's varsity basketball team, I am deeply disappointed in the Saint Mary's athletic department for not renewing coach Steve Bender's contract. In only his first year at Saint Mary's, Coach Bender and his assistant coaches accomplished Saint Mary's' best record in the MIAA. He brought increased recognition and respect to Saint Mary's in the conference when he was named MIAA Coach of the Year.

The MIAA is one of the oldest and most competitive Division III conferences in the U.S. The MIAA consistently sends two to three women's basketball teams to the post-season NCAA tournament. This year, Hope College, a member of the MIAA, won the NCAA Division III National Championship. Not only was Coach Bender able to overcome the challenges of being a first year coach, but he was able to do so in the nationally competitive conference that is the MIAA.

Saint Mary's will be losing Coach Bender and his assistant coaches, particularly coach Jill Bodensteiner. Having personally been coached by her, I can attest to her loyalty to Saint Mary's, her team and her players.

Players have expressed their disbelief and surprise openly at Coach Bender's dismissal. While briefly speaking with current players, they reported that they are committed to taking an active role to reinstate coach Bender.

In recent years, the Saint Mary's Athletic Department has experience increased success due to the quality of its coaches and support from the Saint Mary's community. I have no reason to believe Coach Bender acted in any way that would cause Saint Mary's to ask him not to return. By not renewing the contract of Coach Bender, the Saint Mary's Athletic Department is jeopardizing the future success of the Saint Mary's basketball team.

Julie MalonejuniorHoly Cross HallMarch 27