Shafer deserves credit for cleaning up department

Monday, June 20, 2011

Last week's announcement that Southeast Missouri State athletic director John Shafer is retiring probably came as a surprise to many, myself included.

But the main reason Shafer gave for stepping down, effective June 30 -- that he and his wife Dianne both have parents who are in need of some assistance -- certainly is valid and easily understood.

Shafer wasn't on the job very long -- about 2 1/2 years -- but I believe he had a positive impact on Southeast athletics.

Shafer got a lot accomplished during his time at the university, including helping stabilize a department that was experiencing some tough times and hit with NCAA probation twice in a relatively short period.

More specifically, Shafer played a big role in a variety of facility improvements, including several to Houck Stadium, and Southeast's overall Academic Progress Rate was upgraded under his watch.

Shafer also deserves credit for sticking with football coach Tony Samuel, who was in the final year of his five-year contract entering the 2010 season.

A lot of fans wanted Samuel gone after four poor seasons, but Shafer believed the Redhawks were close to turning the corner. That proved correct. They put together a historic campaign, winning the program's first Ohio Valley Conference title and earning the program's first playoff berth.

The jury still is out on Shafer's two major coaching hires -- Dickey Nutt (men's basketball) and Ty Margenthaler (women's basketball) -- that ultimately will help determine how Shafer's tenure is viewed.

But for right now I'd have to say Shafer, who has exuded class and dignity, deserves kudos for a job well done. Best wishes to him and his wife in the future.

It will be interesting to see who Southeast eventually hires to replace Shafer. I'd be surprised if it isn't somebody much younger who would be expected to stick around for a considerably longer time.

In the meantime, the athletics department will be in capable hands when associate athletic director and longtime university employee Cindy Gannon assumes interim duties beginning July 1.

This will be Gannon's second interim stint. She also filled the void for three months between when Don Kaverman was let go and Shafer was hired.

The Southeast men's basketball program almost landed Martino Brock on the rebound but again came up short.

Brock, who transferred from South Alabama following two seasons with the Sun Belt Conference program, recently visited Southeast but instead committed to South Florida of the Big East Conference.

Brock, a 6-foot-5 wing player who led South Alabama in scoring last season with a 14.2 average, originally signed with former Southeast coach Scott Edgar before the 2008-09 campaign.

But Brock never was admitted to Southeast after failing to meet eligibility requirements.

Let me say right off the bat that I'm not a LeBron James hater. Far from it. I've always admired him and the way he, for the most part, has handled being anointed the next great thing since he was young.

And I didn't automatically root against the Miami Heat no matter who they played this year, as opposed to what seems like the rest of the free world.

But I still was happy to see the Dallas Mavericks beat James and the Heat in a highly entertaining NBA finals that took six games, several of them decided in the final seconds.

I was in the Mavericks' corner because I'm a big fan of Dirk Nowitzki, the classy superstar from Germany who finally won a title.

Nowitzki's story is an interesting one for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact he comes from a country that is not exactly known for producing world-class basketball players.

Nowitzki was discovered while competing in a youth league as a 15-year-old by a former German international basketball player, who saw potential and took Nowitzki under his wing.

Nowitzki blossomed and the rest, as they say, is history.

A neat story, punctuated by the Mavericks winning the NBA championship behind the brilliant play of finals MVP Nowitzki.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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