As a rule, press releases have the same effect on me like trees blowing in the wind. Unless they happen to be attached to a stack of ButterBurgers, a case of Spotted Cow or a couple dozen Titleists, I'm unlikely to notice.
That's why I nearly pulled a muscle in my neck earlier this week when an oddly worded press release from Edgewood College filtered into my inbox. What was odd about the wording was the subject of a new hire in its title: "Tim Alexander Named Head Coach for Edgewood College Women's Golf."
Tim Alexander has done many things for Edgewood College athletics over the years, most notably win 500 games as its men's and women's soccer coach, two programs he started in 1990 and 1993, respectively. But coaching golf — let alone women's golf — is not even a footnote on his resume (well, it is now!).
My first (and only) call on this developing story was not to Alexander to see if he was being held against his will. It was to Edgewood College athletic director Al Brisack to remind him that golf — unlike soccer — is played with your hands and to ask if, perhaps, director of athletics communications Brian Schipferling had used the template of an old press release to crank out this one announcing the change.
Even the photo they sent along with the email (and accompanying this story) makes it look like it was taken as Alexander was being delivered the news by Brisack. "Al, you want me to coach what?!"
If the mark of a great athletic director is the ability to defend a decision clearly and logically, by the end of our chat, Brisack had entered the Hall of Fame.
The decision to cut ties with former coach Darcy Kelly — a wonderful person who I saw on the recruiting trail just last month — appears to be more of an issue with the quantity of golfers in the program (or recent lack thereof) than it was a statement about its quality, although at the Division III level the two often run hand-in-hand. Since replacing Katie Luckraft in 2013 after the former University of Wisconsin golfer took over the women's golf program at St. Olaf (Minn.), Kelly only carried a roster larger than four golfers three times, according to those archived on the Eagles' athletics Website, in a sport where teams play five golfers in competition and count the top four scores.
To Brisack, though, the math simply didn't add up.
Edgewood College has two majors ultra-popular with its female students — nursing and education — on a campus that is the proverbial 9-iron away from the University of Wisconsin in a city with so much to offer the 1,600-plus students that attend the Dominican liberal arts college just down Monroe Street. The question Brisack asked himself: "What can we do to boost our numbers in women's golf?"
The urge to call Alexander became the obvious answer — well, obvious to Brisack.
The rest of us either need to dust off the tablets of Edgewood College athletics history to find Alexander's named chiseled all over them. He oversaw the transition of the Eagles' baseball program from club to varsity status in 1992 and spent six seasons as coach. He kept watch over the men's tennis program — despite never having ever played the sport — for three seasons before it went on a 10-year hiatus.
Brisack didn't want to see his women's golf program meet the same fate. That's why plucked Alexander from the ranks of retirement — he relinquished the women's soccer program in March after stepping away from his men's soccer duties in 2014 and, among other things, has been passing time working on his own golf game — and asked him to work his magic.
"I need your help," Briscak said, describing the conversation with Alexander. "I need to build this up. You're going to need to put some good golf people around you to teach, which he gets and I know he'll do. But I need to build up the numbers; we need to get a viable roster."
In other words, Alexander will do the heavy lifting and promote a program that has a lot to offer. For one, the Eagles have access to Cherokee Country Club in Madison, where longtime PGA professionals Dennis and Larry Tiziani have never turned down an opportunity to look at a swing and this spring hired former Madison Memorial golfer Kristen Muryani as their new director of golf.
Brisack's intuition tells him that there are other selling points that will make the task in front of Alexander a wee bit easier. One is Edgewood College's inTuition program, which last academic year lowered annual tuition from $30,600 to $11,400 (or roughly what it costs to attend the neighboring University of Wisconsin) for those who meet academic requirements and makes Edgewood one of the most affordable private schools around.
But the biggest, Brisack said, is Alexander's passion for anything to which he commits his time.
It was the calling card of a 29-year relationship between Alexander and Edgewood College before his first try at retirement last winter. He became just the 17th coach in NCAA history to reach 500 victories and departed the college coaching ranks with 574 career victories, 331 with the women's program and 243 with the men.
"Anybody who knows Tim knows he's going to have his fingerprints on this," Brisack said. "He's going to grow this program. It's going to be really hard for any girls or their parents to not be excited ap anbout getting the roster numbers up and the competitiveness up. That's his m.o. It's who he is.
"So we're going to try it this way. We're not going to get rid of it. We're going to build it up and I believe it's going to work."