Last year around this time, I thought I was the luckiest sports writer on campus. With basketball and hockey finishing up, I had managed to score the only beat position remaining for the one spring sport worth watching (sorry tennis).
For 16 home games over a six-week stretch, I would get to cover the Wisconsin softball team. Maybe I would even get to see a few Big Ten Tournament games if I were fortunate enough (a joke that will make sense later in the column).
I am currently shuddering at the repressed memories that are bubbling up.
You see, the softball team is like the drunk uncle at your wedding. You can’t ask him to leave (thanks Title IX), but you know at some point he is going to scar the children who just want to throw their hands up and shout (the softball scarring comes from watching the Badger infield take ground balls).
Last season, UW finished with a school record 40 losses and 15 wins for a stellar .231 winning percentage This year, the Badgers have stumbled out to an 11-21 record with a 1-3 record in the Big Ten.
Though the softball team has to deal with the numerous problems that come with playing an outdoor sport in Wisconsin’s bipolar spring weather — such as going on the road for their first 28 games of the season — the only problem worth writing about lays in the head coach.
They don’t have one.
Sure, there is some woman named Chandelle Schulte who makes $74,471 a year and is listed as the head coach, but I am convinced that must be a misprint.
How could a head coach post records that have gotten worse and worse each year in conference play and keep her job?
How can a coach not make the Big Ten postseason even once in three years and retain her position?
How is it possible the Badgers can lose to teams like Indiana (a 3-22 record at the time) and North Dakota (2-19 at the time) and the head coach still collects a paycheck?
The answer is, it isn’t possible. Athletic Director Barry Alvarez must have fired her, gotten distracted by spring football and forgotten to hire a new coach. UWbadgers.com just hasn’t been updated in a while to let us know.
What else could explain a team .232 batting average, .300 slugging and a .290 on base percentage — all ranking 10th in the Big Ten.
If the numbers don’t convince you this team is running around like a badger with its head cut off, just take a look at the players on the field season after season. The team plays a perverse game of musical chairs with its defense, changing positions like Wisconsin changes temperatures.
The best example of this is senior Theresa Boruta. In her freshman year, the Chicago native made 42 starts at left field, second base and pitcher. In her sophomore year, Boruta’s playing time was reduced with most of it coming at second and third base, before moving exclusively as the starter at the hot corner during her junior year. When I asked Schulte about Boruta’s position last season, Schulte assured me the move to third base wouldn’t change again.
“In the offseason we told her that we would find a permanent home for her, so she could commit to getting better at that position,” Schulte said.
This season? Boruta has made the majority of her starts at catcher.
An optimist would call this developing diverse players. A realist who is looking at the 11-21 record would compare it to the leadership exhibited by Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders.
Another favorite hobby of Schulte’s is to break down the swings of her players and to build them back up. Last season the Badgers set a UW record with 385 strikeouts and this season the team has averaged a soccer-esque 2.5 runs per game. The swings appear to be more broken than the Illinois political system. Maybe she is just biding her time to build them back up.
For whatever the reason, Schulte is still listed as the head coach for Wisconsin’s softball team. Like all Badger sports, the softball program is given all the tools necessary to win. Someone go tell Barry he forgot to hire the final piece of the puzzle.
Michael is a junior majoring in journalism. Have a problem with Schulte being the head coach? Wish there was something else to watch rather than softball in the spring? Michael can be reached at [email protected]