An awful trend is developing in college athletics that needs to be stopped.

No, I’m not talking about the effects of the H1N1 virus on the health of athletic teams across the country. And no, I’m not talking about the discipline problems experienced by schools like Tennessee (armed robbery), Kansas (fight between basketball and football teams) and Oregon (“the punch”).

What I am talking about is softball.

More specifically, the fact that young women continue to sign on to play Division I softball at the University of Wisconsin for head coach Chandelle Schulte. I don’t know how Schulte does it, but against all odds, she continues to sign what appear to be high-quality athletes.

Maybe she brainwashes these young women into thinking back-to-back 40-loss seasons is a sign of a program on the rise. Or maybe they are just not aware of Schulte’s awful track record in her short tenure at Wisconsin.

Regardless of how she gets them to sign, it simply should not be allowed. A coach that posts back-to-back 40-loss seasons should be fired, not given the opportunity to destroy more collegiate softball careers.

When several players and coaches leave the team before or during the season (which has happened in each of the last two seasons), there’s only one person who deserves the blame: the head coach. Schulte is a polarizing figure to say the least.

The four latest victims… er, signees are Stephanie Peace, Mary Massei, Cassandra Darrah and Michelle Mueller. If I could give the four of them one piece of advice it would be this: get out while you still can and get as far away from Schulte as possible.

I’m sure any one of these four young women could find another suitor that isn’t an odds-on favorite to set a new school record for losses in 2010. And I’m sure any of them could have gone elsewhere, had it not been for Schulte’s surprisingly good recruiting skills.

For example, Peace is a three-time academic all-district, first team all-district and all-county athlete from New Braunfels, Texas. Last season, Peace helped lead Canyon High School to a Texas Class 4-A State Championship, earning Texas Girls Coaches Association and Texas Sportswriters Association All-State honors in the process.

Considering five schools in Texas and Oklahoma finished among the top 35 schools in the final National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll in 2009, I think it’s safe to say Peace could have done better staying closer to home.

What worries me most about her situation is Schulte’s quote in the press release.

“She’s very coachable,” Schulte said.

Coachable? Schulte doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to “coaching” her players, especially in terms of hitting and pitching… and defense.

Just look at what she’s done with several players in her lineup over the last two years.

Schulte’s favorite thing to do is take an average or above average right-handed hitter with good speed and turn them into an out machine by forcing them to become a left-handed slap hitting specialist (Theresa Boruta and Jen Krueger, for example). It’s one of the top reasons the single-season strikeout record was shattered in the Schulte era.

Sure, it might be a good idea considering the short distance between bases in softball, but it just doesn’t work — at least not the way Schulte has done it.

Massei, an outfielder from Ruben Ayala High School in Chino Hills, Calif., earned All-Sierra League first team, All-Inland Valley first team and all-state second team honors in 2009, due in large part to her having Schulte’s favorite quality in a player.

“Mary Massei is probably one of the quickest kids that we’ve ever brought in,” Schulte said.

Schulte just doesn’t get it does she? The softball team does not need more speed. It needs a complete overhaul from hitting and pitching to defense and, obviously, coaching.

To be honest, sometimes I don’t know who I feel worse for, the players who sign on to play for Schulte, or Schulte herself, who just seems to be way in over her head.

Finally, Darrah and Mueller are from Iowa and Wisconsin, respectively, so it’s not surprising the two would go under the radar and end up as Badgers.

Unfortunately for them, however, Schulte’s system won’t help them showcase their abilities to the powerhouse programs that overlooked them in the recruiting process.

Darrah, for example, is an excellent pitcher and someone the UW head coach expects to contribute as a freshman. But once she gets settled into Schulte’s system of overworking pitchers beyond any reasonable expectations (see: Leah Vanevenhoven and Letty Olivarez in 2008), Darrah will have a tough time performing consistently well.

Mueller is perhaps the only unsurprising signee, as she is a La Crosse native. But due to her proximity to the program, I would have expected her to be more knowledgeable about Schulte’s terrible program and try to avoid UW at all costs in the near future.

With nearly a year until the four latest Wisconsin recruits join the program, I hope for their sake they reconsider playing for Schulte, even if it means not playing softball at all.

If not, I hope Schulte finally figures things out so their signing doesn’t end in another 40-loss season when they join the team for the 2011 season. However, since that isn’t likely to happen, these four young women better be prepared to lose… a lot.

Jordan is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Do you agree the four latest Wisconsin recruits made a terrible mistake? Or do you think Schulte can turn it around? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

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