Despite leading the Sand Sharks team to an 80-17 record over two seasons and within a victory of the NAIA World Series this spring, Ty Rietkovich will not return as head softball coach for the University of South Carolina Beaufort for the 2013-14 school year.
USC Beaufort director of athletics Quin Monahan said he informed the coach at a 9 a.m. meeting on Thursday.
Monahan said he would not discuss specific reasons for letting Rietkovich go, but he would explain the process by which he came to that decision.
"All of our coaches are on one-year contracts," Monahan said. "It was an administrative decision not to renew Coach Rietkovich's contract for the 2013-14 season.
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"I'm evaluating coaches all year long," Monahan said. "I meet with coaches at least once every two weeks and discuss issues, talk about their programs and the future, evaluating. There wasn't any one point where I came to that decision on Ty."
The Sand Sharks finished the 2013 season ranked No. 11 in NAIA with a 43-6 record. They won the Sun Conference regular-season and tournament crowns before falling to eventual national runner-up Spring Hill (Ala.) in the championship game of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round at the Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville.
Rietkovich, who said he went into Thursday's meeting expecting to talk about plans for next season, was surprised by the decision.
"I really don't know where anything went wrong except we didn't make it to the World Series," Rietkovich said. "We had a great season and a great two years. We put together a positive environment for the players and the university and we created a lot of excitement. We performed in the field and the classroom, and the community.
"(Monahan) felt like he needed to make a change. I don't know what that other direction to the World Series is."
Rietkovich said he wasn't given a specific reason for the change.
"(Monahan) didn't say," Rietkovich said. "It was a very short meeting. It probably lasted seven or eight minutes. The one thing I want understood, ... there's not been anything ongoing or illegal or immoral on my part. This was his prerogative. I have to respect that. I don't have to agree, but I have to respect it."
Monahan said there were no on-the-field issues, and there wasn't a personality clash behind the move.
"Obviously, we had great records and won a lot of ball games," Monahan said. "But winning is not and never will be the bottom line. We want to win a lot of ball games, however, we're not only about wins and losses. I'm not interested in winning teams, I'm interested in strong programs, on and off field, in the dugouts, in the community and in the classroom. I'm more interested in having a strong program, in building student-athletes."
After meeting with Rietkovich on Thursday morning, Monahan emailed the players that afternoon before posting the news on the USCB athletics website. He said assistant coach Laura Heberling had personally called and spoken to every player.
"I have not spoken with the girls myself, but have heard from some parents," Monahan said. "The reactions that I've gotten so far have been very supportive. There have been no surprises there. My indication is that there is a strong understanding that we have the best intentions for this program and we're only going to do what we think will make the program better. So the reactions have so far been very understanding of that."
Monahan said that so far, he was unaware of any players who would not be returning as a result of the change. One player with a unique situation would be rising senior All-Sun Conference second baseman Katie Rietkovich, daughter of the departing coach.
"She's her own woman and she'll make the decision," Ty Rietkovich said. "I'll support her if she wants to stay at USCB. I'll support her whatever she decides. That's what daddies do."
Ty Rietkovich, who was in Spartanburg on Saturday for a softball tournament, is unsure of his future, as well.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next. I wish I did," he said. "I'm weighing my options. Maybe there's a school out there who'd like to be where we were after two years."
As for the future of softball at USC Beaufort, Monahan said the school is moving quickly to find the Sand Sharks' next coach.
"I'm not as concerned with speed as I am with finishing the process well," Monahan said. "I'm more concerned with getting the right person than I am with finishing the process quickly."
Rietkovich is still under contract until June 15, and said he is prohibited from having contact with his former players.
"After the 15th," Rietkovich said, "I'll let them know how proud I am of them for what they've accomplished.
"The whole thing is real tough, no part is easy," Rietkovich said. "I can't talk the talk without walking the walk, though. I've told the girls that when life throws you a curve ball, you've got to hit it. I've got to close this chapter and read the next one. I can't preach it unless I live it."