Questions surrounding coach’s retirement remain unanswered

Grant Engle

Mike Morrow’s sudden retirement as women’s head golf coach in late January came as a surprise to many fans of the program.

The second half of the 2012-2013 season was three weeks away, and the man who coached the team from the program’s inception in 1998 would no longer be around.

Even 35-year men’s head coach Herb Page, who is also the director of golf, said the move caught him a bit off guard.

“I wouldn’t say I was shocked,” Page said. “I was puzzled. I think Mike had options, but he chose to retire.”

Morrow Evaluations

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Morrow Evaluations (PDF)

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Page said he wasn’t exactly sure what Morrow’s options were, but he believed that Morrow could still be coaching the women’s team today.

Records obtained by the Daily Kent Stater showed that Morrow was an at-will employee of the university. That means he didn’t have a traditional contract.

While every other head coach of the major sports at the university have contracts that stipulate terms of length and salary, Morrow was evaluated and paid on what was basically a year-by-year basis.

Athletic director Joel Nielsen wouldn’t comment on whether or not Morrow’s at-will standing with the university was a point of contention, but he lent some insight on how he prefers to employ head coaches.

“You can see the vast majority of our coaches are under contract,” Nielsen said. “I think you’ll see that pattern continue.”

Morrow had also served as the manager of the Kent State golf course since the early 1990s, and he picked up coaching duties when the university started the women’s team in 1998. He would hold both positions until his retirement. Morrow’s last documented salary with the university was more than $105,000 per year.

Kent State posted separate job listings for the new golf course manager and women’s head golf coach. The university has filled the golf course manager position, which is now a nine-month term position. Morrow’s replacement will make a little more than $28,000.

The university’s job listing for the new women’s golf coach lists the proposed salary between $50,000 and $80,000 “depending on experience.”

While many have speculated about the reason for Morrow’s retirement, the former coach would only confirm that he didn’t retire because of health issues, a need to spend more time with his family or because he was asked to accept a pay cut.

However, Morrow otherwise stayed mum on his dealings with the athletic department before he made the decision to retire.

“I’m not going to talk about the options I had,” Morrow said. “I want the transition to be smooth, and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. I’m looking to move on with my life. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think everyone wants to move forward, too.”

Morrow’s personnel record showed no disciplinary action taken against him during his tenure at Kent State, and his performance reviews from the university and the athletic department consisted of mostly “excellent, very good or good” reviews.

Page vehemently denied any possibility that Morrow was asked to retire as disciplinary action or because of a scandal.

“It was his decision to retire,” Page said. “Whatever happened leading up to that – I wasn’t privy to that information. So I’m not going to comment on it.”

Sources within the athletic department said they believed Morrow was offered a contract last year, and Morrow declined the offer.

Nielsen said he would not confirm or deny if Morrow was ever offered a contract, and the now-retired coach said he couldn’t recall if a contract was actually presented to him. Also, Morrow declined to comment on whether or not he was asked to accept a reduced role at the golf course before he announced his retirement.

“There was talk,” Morrow said. “But I’m not sure if anything was ever really offered to me. I was happy with the way everything was. I never pushed for a contract or anything like that.”

Page said that no matter the circumstances surrounding Morrow’s retirement, he should be looked at as an icon in the athletic department.

Morrow was adamant about moving on with his life. He said he still wants the best for the Kent State women’s golf program.

“I’m a positive person, and I’d like to go out that way,” Morrow said. “I think I was positive for 23 years at the golf course and 14 years as the golf coach. It’s the best way to do anything. It’s all in the past, and it’s time to move forward.”

Contact Grant Engle at [email protected].