The recent firing of Shelly and Chris Aaland reflects poorly on Fort Lewis College President Dene Kay Thomas, Athletic Director Gary Hunter and the college.
There have been three recent team revolts by women athletes at Fort Lewis College: Lacrosse, softball and volleyball. I’m not sure what became of the lacrosse protest, but softball coach Kira Zeiter was so upset, her father Bruce was enroute to Durango to comfort her and tragically lost his life in a car accident.
Shelly Aaland was on a recruiting trip to Atlanta when her team met with Hunter. She was summarily dismissed without a chance to meet with her team or present her side.
Within days, Shelly’s husband Chris was also dismissed from his position as assistant director of athletics for communications. The reason given was for allowing the story to be picked up by The Durango Herald before FLC could issue an official news release. Unfortunately, Chris was in the press box covering a lacrosse game when he received the news of Shelly’s firing from a colleague, and in the presence of a Herald reporter. His “no comment” remark to the reporter was apparently was not enough to mollify his superiors.
I’m aware it’s not uncommon for a newly appointed athletic director to clean house and replace coaches with those of their own preference. Former FLC football coach Cesar Rivas was recently asked to resign before being replaced. Apparently, Thomas and Hunter did not think the Aalands deserved equal consideration despite having many more years of service.
The Aalands deserved far better treatment. They are vested in this community, and have given a lot both through and outside of their commitments to FLC. They have a mortgage, a child in school, another child buried here. They should not have been put into a position where having to leave town to start over in a new location is a possibility.
They wish the best for FLC and the athletic community. They only desire to be treated fairly, commensurate with the love and dedication they have shown FLC and Durango.