MHS must regain control of Lynx

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s co-op girls hockey team reached the state championship game last year./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Editor's Note: This is a column by Sports Editor Rob Reischel

Jamie Sims has been Middleton’s athletic director for just six weeks.

Sims inherited a pair of size 19 shoes left behind by the late, great Bob Joers. He was quickly forced to deal with the fallout of a global pandemic and help make tough decisions regarding fall sports.

Sims still has a lengthy to-do list — most notably how to schedule three sports seasons into the winter and spring. When he comes up for air, though, it’s imperative for Sims — and assistant A.D. Ben White — to reclaim control of Middleton’s co-op girls hockey program.

Middleton’s co-op, also known as the Madison Metro Lynx, consists of players from Middleton, Madison West, Madison Memorial, Madison Edgewood and Verona. The Lynx was also one program Joers took immense pride in.

Joers helped the Lynx grow from their infancy in 2010 to a program that reached the WIAA state championship game in March. Despite that run to greatness, head coach Mike McKersie wasn’t retained and was recently replaced by former assistant coach Kathryn Anderson.

Shortly after Joers died of pancreatic cancer on May 15, Madison West athletic director Alicia Pelton wrestled away control of the program. Pelton was placed in charge of hiring a new coach, even though she had a daughter on last year’s team who still has two years of eligibility remaining. 

Today, many are wondering how Pelton could get away with such a blatant conflict of interest?

“Unethical and unprofessional,” one athletic director told me. 

“What a dirty deal,” one Middleton coach told me. 

“Typical Madison politics,” another Cardinals’ coach said.

No matter what you think of McKersie — and he certainly had his critics — the hiring process that led to his dismissal reeked like a month-old litter box.

McKersie wanted to suspend Pelton’s daughter — and another Lynx player — at one point last season. McKersie went in front of a small committee that did not include Pelton and lobbied for a two-game suspension for both players.

The committee chose not to suspend either player, and McKersie’s relationship with Pelton was never the same. Just months later, Pelton maneuvered herself into position to pick the Lynx’s next coach and kicked McKersie to the curb.

“If Bob (Joers) was still here, I definitely think I’d still be the coach,” McKersie said. “He was very supportive. He took a lot of pride in having the Lynx in Middleton, and he was always there to talk if I had an issue with a parent or a player. But after Bob died, Alicia (Pelton) made a push to get the job over there and she went in a different direction.”

Make no mistake, McKersie wasn’t without flaws.

Many had problems with McKersie’s decision to start his daughter, Camryn, in goal in the state championship game. A handful of players went to McKersie before the game, asked him to reconsider, and he held his ground.

Middleton fell in an early 2-0 hole before McKersie switched goalies. The Lynx couldn’t recover, though, and lost, 5-3.

McKersie also scored poorly in end-of-the-year surveys sent to players. Many of those low scores, though, came from players who faced disciplinary action during the season.

The bigger issue here, though, is Pelton’s galling conflict of interest — and how she was allowed to spearhead the search for her own daughter’s next coach. 

It’s also evidence that Middleton should once again take control of the program — something Joers would have never relinquished.

Middleton has more manpower in its A.D. office than ever before.

With Sims and White tag-teaming the job, Middleton is devoting more hours to the position than it ever has. So taking back a sport that’s always been under MHS’ guidance makes perfect sense.

Girls hockey is growing faster in Wisconsin than any state in the country. Middleton’s co-op needs true leadership at the top of the program, not decision makers that are biased and partial.

Pelton saw an opening and took full advantage for her own personal gain. Now, it’s time to place her in the penalty box — and put Middleton in control of the Lynx once again.

 

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