EDITORIAL: Cowles leaves Lady Topper program with remarkable grace

Herald Staff

THE ISSUE: Mary Taylor Cowles was fired after 10 seasons as the Lady Topper head coach on Friday, March 8. In her final season, the Lady Toppers finished 9-21.

OUR STANCE: The day after she was fired, Cowles released a statement that ended with, “Once a Hilltopper, always a Hilltopper.” After ending her career in such an unfortunate way, it’s great to see her still remain positive and appreciative of WKU.

The Lady Toppers finished the 2011-2012 season with a historic milestone — their first 20-loss season in program history.

In addition to this embarrassing low, the Lady Toppers had 15 games in the past two seasons with less than 950 fans in home attendance and averaged a little over 1,000 fans in home attendance for this past season.

There was a general consensus from many Lady Topper fans that something needed to be done, that a 20-loss season is unacceptable with the Lady Toppers’ winning history.

So, in a move that is unprecedented in most athletic programs, WKU fired its second head basketball coach this season. This time Mary Cowles was on the losing end.

Cowles leaves behind multiple decades of experience with the Lady Topper program. She was a Lady Topper from 1988-1991, during which time she scored more than 1,000 points and played as a member of three Sun Belt Championship teams. After six years as an assistant coach at WKU, she coached the Lady Toppers for 10 years as their head coach. All of this cumulates to more than 20 years associated with WKU and a lot of time spent and connections made on the Hill.

With Cowles’ personal and professional ties to WKU, many can agree that the decision for the athletic administration to end her career was one they didn’t decide on easily. Athletics Director Ross Bjork acknowledged the decision to fire Cowles as “difficult” given Cowles’ history with WKU.

This does not overlook the fact that the Lady Topper basketball program was in need of a desperate change. In sports, Cowles running a “first-class program” as Bjork called it, does not equate to job security. Coaches are hired to win games, and Cowles simply wasn’t winning enough of them. And personal ties must be forsaken when it comes to professional decisions.

However, Cowles’ exit, though not ideal, could not have been done in a more dignified and respectful manner on her part. Despite the emotions she was feeling at the time, Cowles gracefully said she would always be a Hilltopper. She thanked WKU for the years of experience she gained and showed her appreciation for the faculty and staff at the school. She also acknowledged the friendships she formed and how happy she was to be part of the Lady Topper program.

It took former men’s coach Ken McDonald nearly two weeks to release a statement.

Knowing her association to the university, one can argue it was very hard to release a statement so soon and to remain positive and graceful the way she did. The Herald commends Cowles for leaving WKU in such a classy manner, and we wish her all the best moving forward.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member editorial board.