Patty Stotzheim resigned Wednesday as Southeast Missouri State University's gymnastics coach after four years with the program.
Stotzheim, 34, said she made the decision to leave so she could spend more time with family and to pursue a law degree at her alma mater, Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.
The uncertainty that surrounded the program amid budget cuts the past several months also was a factor, she said.
"It was something I had to consider," said Stotzheim, who said she considered resigning after the 2002 season but decided to stay to provide the program stability while it faced potential elimination.
The university decided in early December to keep the program intact. The team's season began about a month later.
"I wanted to finish this past year with the issues that were going on," Stotzheim said. "I knew this year would be hard for the program. I didn't want to leave it that way."
"I don't necessarily feel like I've completed what I started here. I just feel that right now I just needed to make a change for a lot of different reasons."
Stotzheim will remain with the program until July 18, the final day of a summer gymnastics camp at Southeast.
Stotzheim is the fifth coach in the program's 27 years. She leaves with a 32-50 record. Five gymnasts qualified for NCAA regionals during her four years.
Her news came as a surprise to the 16 members of the team, who were told of her decision last week during a team meeting.
"None of us knew she had even considered leaving," said junior Ashley Godwin, an NCAA regional qualifier this year. "We were all in a room ready to watch a video from a meet, but when she walked in and shut the door we knew something was up. She looked ready to cry. We could tell it was hard for her."
Godwin said the past season was difficult for Stotzheim, who came to Southeast after coaching at Hamline for six years. The Otahkians were 8-13 this season.
"This was her toughest year," Godwin said. "She stayed strong so we could stay strong. She did a great job of keeping us focused on competing."
The university has begun advertising nationally for a new coach, and Stotzheim said she already has spoken to several coaches and assistant coaches from other colleges and club teams about the opening.
"There have been a lot of positive changes made, and there are good recruits coming in," Stotzheim said. "There are a lot of things going right for the next person to step in."
335-6611, extension 174