Former University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh baseball coach Tom Lechnir's contract was not renewed after this past season and he is appealing this based on issues regarding the funding and construction of the new Alumni Baseball Complex.
Lechnir met with the media Monday and here are some of the key talking points:
- 1. Coach Lechnir played and coached baseball at UW-Oshkosh for over 30 years.
- 2. He made UW-Oshkosh a Division III power. More importantly, he has touched the lives of his players — from the role players, to the guys who have moved on to the major league.
- 3. He is the primary reason that the new Alumni Stadium has become and will remain a wonderful asset to the University.
- 4. The fact that he has been dismissed as baseball coach, cannot and does not have anything to do with his value as a Coach and mentor or his ability to lead young men.
- 5. Coach Lechnir knows exactly what his dismissal is tied to — it is the university created issues regarding the funding and construction of the new Alumni Baseball Complex. This beautiful new stadium built through private donations from generous alumni and friends of the program and built by local contractors who donated much of their time and materials finished on time and on budget. Yet this stadium apparently, if this decision stands, also ends Coach Lechnir's career at UW-Oshkosh, and that is wrong.
- 6. From Day 1, certain high-ranking officials at the UW-Oshkosh stood by while Coach Lechnir was accused of generating significant debt in the expansion of Alumni Stadium. This was, and is, false. If the dollars donated to the stadium had been utilized properly, there was no real debt, if fact, the project was structured very well and was capable of being paid for without any debt or any public dollars at all, and the university knows this.
- 7. The donations on this project, all from private donors, have amounted to in excess of $450,000 with another $100,000 plus pledged. $550,000 which is exactly what the construction manager, CR Meyer of Oshkosh, would tell you was the real cost of the stadium. Make no mistake, Coach Lechnir could see this coming years ago. Once this project got underway, a high-ranking UW-Oshkosh official told Coach Lechnir: "They are going to blame you for the debt you are not responsible for. It is tied to other UW-Oshkosh Foundation problems. You are going to be the scapegoat. You are going to lose your job."
- 8. That conversation occurred years ago, and sure enough, coach started to see his job evaluations, which were impeccable, for his first 25 years, drop suddenly and dramatically with the current athletic director and regime. At one point, coach was handed a relatively poor job evaluation much to his surprise, and only later he learned that the athletic director had actually secretly filed a much worse job evaluation without providing it to Coach Lechnir. Only by digging through the garbage, was coach able to find proof of this alteration.
- 9. At another point, his supervisor signed off on his job evaluation that coach would be given a renewed contract. Later, that document was unilaterally altered, apparently by one person, to reflect a non-renewal. All of this happened without the coach's knowledge and was only found out later. He still tried to meet the unrealistic and unsupported demands his supervisors were placing on him to cover this "so-called" debt. After securing the last donation needed to essentially fully-fund the project, the chancellor of the university told that donor to keep his money and walk away from the baseball coach and the program. Coach Lechnir was being held to standards that the university itself made impossible to meet.
- 10. Coach Lechnir tried to address these issues with the university privately with the athletic director, the vice chancellor in charge of athletics, and with the chancellor. He filed multiple appeals of the last year. He brought up the altered job evaluations from the athletic director, the altered contract renewal documents, the fact that the debt is being blamed on him with the result of the University's own mistakes, and the university's own mismanagement of its own foundation funds, all to no avail.
- 11. This is a public institution, with public employees, and they have failed miserably in their responsibility to the public. The donors for Alumni Stadium are sick over this situation. The alumni of the baseball program want nothing more than to support the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh well into the future, are left wondering if they will every step foot on the campus again. The contractors who donated their time and materials are disgusted by the treatment of Coach Lechnir and the entire project team by the university.
- 12. Coach Lechnir wants to coach baseball. He did not ask to be thrown into the petty bureaucratic politics of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and its foundation. Alumni Stadium is basically complete and the costs are accounted for, and the last remaining
- gap of funding was pledged a long time ago, and it is our belief that the university would step back and take a look at this entire situation, they would have to conclude that the only fair thing to do is to get out of the way and let Coach Lechnir to take the field. We invite the university to allow us to share all of the information we have regarding this saga from start to finish. We invite them to allow us to do it in a public setting so that the truth can be told. Coach Lechnir has no confidence that this matter will be looked into appropriately unless it is done so in the light of a public meeting. If the university has nothing to hide it should welcome that. If the university believes we are wrong on any point, it should welcome the public meeting all the more.
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