Cross Country |
April 18, 2013
Saying goodbye is never easy, but saying goodbye to someone who has been the face and fixture of an athletics program for 33 years seems unfathomable. Such is the case with University of Cincinnati men's cross country and track and field head coach Bill Schnier, who is hanging up his coaching hat after 33 years with the Bearcats.
Schnier has a different take on retiring. In fact, he neither sees himself as a retiree nor is he counting down the days to retirement.
"I think of myself as a worker, as an employee, and someone who has work to do," said Schnier. "In that respect nothing has changed. I don't walk in the door every day, like some people ask me, `Are you counting down the days?' I answer absolutely not. I just hope I can get all my work done by 7 p.m."
So what brought Schnier to retirement if, after 33 years, he still considers himself as one with work to do?
"What brought me to retirement was, little by little, there are reasons that I should do something else rather than this," Schnier said. "At no point have I thought this was an undesirable job, but I have other things to do. Without stopping this job, I can't do those other things. I picture a different phase of my life. It is nothing more than that.
What kept Schnier working was the job remained new to him. For well over 10 years, he considered himself a new employee because Cincinnati is, what he called, "a traditional city," and it took him a while to feel he belonged and was a part of the structure of the city and University.
"I would look around me and would see people who have been around here for a long time like Glen Campbell and Jim Kelly," said Schnier. "Somehow about 20 years after being here, it occurred to me that nobody has been here longer than me. At that point I realized I was no longer a new employee, but I was the oldest."
About eight years ago, Schnier looked at the makeup of the athletics department and thought, "Everyone here is 26 years old except me." Although the thought was not accurate, he asked himself if he truly belonged and if he was comfortable.
"I had to work out things a little bit. I didn't seek to take on a different role," he said, "but I think it simply came to me. I took on a different status on the people in the department. All of a sudden, I guess others recognized I was an older, more experienced person. The situation did not change, but others' perception of me changed."
One would assume that, as others' perception of him changed and they saw him as a veteran of UC athletics, he would have naturally mentored several younger coaches and administrators. Schnier, however believes that if he in fact mentored someone, he was just doing his job. Admittedly, he realizes that others have used him as an example without telling him, just as people have mentored him without them knowing it.
As Schnier began to process his thoughts and reflect on his time at UC, retirement became bittersweet. "I'll miss a lot of things," he stated. "I'll miss not seeing people I really enjoy on a regular basis. I'll miss walking the halls of this beautiful building (the Richard E. Lindner Center) and seeing these people that work so hard at their jobs. I don't always know everybody, but I see them and appreciate them.
"I will certainly miss not having a team because for 46 years, 33 at UC, I have had a team. For 46 years I have had a group I can help mold and I have had a group that actually listened to me as if I had something to say. It is a job unlike any other and I think anyone that has ever been a coach realizes the joys of that job."
Schnier has watched student-athletes come to UC as young men and women and leave as adults ready to impact the world. Their development is less about athletic ability and more about giving to each student-athlete what was given to him.
"What I want people to do is to see another point of view," Schnier said. "I want people to realize that there is another point of view and appreciate each other. Those are the important traits that any person should have, and it is especially important for a team to have those traits. Most the time I have seen that happen.
"Occasionally there are people that have considerable problems and sometimes I can help them directly; sometimes I can refer them to someone else," continued Schnier. "Usually it is just enhancing their college years as much as anything else. I think another thing is that I do know everybody on the team now whether I am their coach or not."
The joy of coaching and helping student-athletes develop and mature are things he hopes his successor, Kris Mack, and the women's cross country and track and field head coach, Susan Seaton, hold on to.
"My first bit of advice is for them to be themselves," said Schnier. "In regards to Kris, it has really been my team for 33 years here and it will no longer be my team, it will be his team. I talked to him about that on his interview four years ago and I still have the same opinion."
"Susan came here as my assistant," Schnier continued. "When the head women's coach was no longer here, I felt like Susan was ready to take on that role as head women's coach so I recommended the job be given to her. She has done a beautiful job of organizing that team and molding that team. She has made the team important at UC, really one of the best teams we have."
The hiring of both Mack and Seaton has, indeed, worked out well for Schnier and the UC athletics department. The duo has coached two of UC's top pole vaulters in Josh Dangel and Mackenzie Fields. Both Dangel and Fields have set the Gettler Stadium record in the pole vault this year, while Fields also set a school record at the same meet (Oliver Nikoloff Invitational).
In his 33 years at UC, the track and field and cross country teams have won 12 of the school's 15 conference team titles and 160 individual/relay titles since Schnier arrived. There have been 25 student-athletes who have earned qualification for NCAA national championships, 10 of which went on to become All-Americans. The men's cross country indoor and outdoor track and field teams have won the All-Ohio championship eight times under Schnier's tutelage. In addition, two of Schnier's student-athletes have gone on to win Olympic medals.
As he turns over the reins to Mack, Schnier is looking forward to the next phase of his life.
"I have plans and I don't have plans. There are little things that I have in mind," he said. "One is to work on our house. When you are a coach, you usually have the worst yard and things need to be fixed and there is no time to do it.
"We have two daughters in town. One has a baby now and one soon will, so we want to spend time with them and their husbands and their children. We have a son in Charlotte, N.C. so rather than have him always come and see us, I would like to go there to see him."
Schnier has enjoyed every phase of his life, but he has also made the lives of others much more bright. His smile is infectious and one could listen to him tell stories all day. Schnier and his wife, Kathy, will have new stories to tell - stories about their vacations and grandchildren.
"I am looking for a new phase of my life and I would like to start that new phase while I am still young enough," Schnier said. "As I look back upon my life, I have enjoyed every phase. Now this will be a new phase and it will be adventuresome. I do look forward to the freedom in not having to do the same thing every day as much, as I loved that, but to make the new phase just as lovable."
Upcoming Events for Coach Schnier
This weekend, Schnier and his Bearcats travel to Columbus, Ohio, for the Jesse Owens Invitational, a week after the men took third place in the All-Ohio Championships. The Bearcats will then travel to Miami, Ohio April 27 for the RedHawk Invitational, followed by the BIG EAST Championships May 3-5. The last team competition of the season is May 10 in Louisville, Ky., for the Cardinal Twilight.
The Bill Schnier Retirement celebration will take place Saturday, May 11, 2013 in UC's Great Hall at Tangeman University Center. The reception begins at 6:15 p.m. with dinner and the program scheduled for 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are $100 per person and include complimentary parking in the College Conservatory of Music garage. All proceeds benefit UC's cross country and track and field programs.
The invite and weekend itinerary are available here. Reservations for the weekend's events must be received by May 3 via regonline.com/schnierretirement, or by downloading the RSVP card here and returning it to: UCATS Office, Department of Athletics, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 210021, Cincinnati, OH 45221. Guests may book a room on campus at the Marriott Kingsgate by calling 513-487-3800 (mention the UC Track Celebration block).
For more information contact Vicki Rohlfer in the UCATS Office at 513-556-0628 or Vicki.Rohlfer@uc.edu.