This year, Mike Straubel will finish his 35 year marathon as the head coach of cross country.
But his exit was not without a number of evidential factors that influenced his decision to retire. As a former professor of Valpo’s law school, his race as a college professor was halted when the law school shut down.
“I was full-time law faculty and two years ago when the law school shut down of course I was no longer faculty,” said Straubel. “So at that point there was a very hard decision because of the salary cut. Losing the salary of being a fulltime faculty member was dramatic; this was only made a part-time job on a very small salary.”
But Straubel chose not to leave the team because he wanted to stay on and take care of them. His decision, however, came at a cost.
“So I stayed on for about a year and a half, almost two years just on a part-time salary, and that was financially difficult. Just this fall it was made a full-time position, but the pay is still very low,” Straubel said.
As he begins to wrap up his career, Straubel said that he needs to be closer to his wife, who currently lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“Another part of the decision is it’s time for me to move up there and live with her full-time. We’ve been commuting back-and-forth for 15 years and I need to join her,” Straubel said.
As he looks to his future, Straubel will take time in Kalamazoo to figure out the next chapter in his life.
“One thing I will do is start training harder and competing. I can almost for a little while pretend I’m a professionalandtrainfull-time,”Straubel said. “I don’t know if I’ll go back to triathlons which I was doing for a while but I’ll certainly do some track races and some world races.”
Even though he wants to see his athletes grow and compete, the certain issues of pay and being away from his wife were too great to stay on.
“If my wife were here and the job paid well I would keep coaching but my wife’s not here and the pay is a problem,” Straubel said.
While he looks to new races and challenges in life, Straubel looks back on his first few races.
The former coach’s story of starting cross country did not occur immediately in his youth, as Straubel originally spent his time playing volleyball and tennis.
Straubel didn’t begin running until he started law school at McGill University to receive his LL.M. Straubel began his coaching career in 1987, but arrived at Valparaiso in 1985.
Throughout his career, Straubel has coached many athletes. Senior Maranda Donahue said that his biggest strength comes from his knowledge of running.
“He definitely knows what he’s talking about,” said Donahue. “He knows a lot about the mechanics of running,
everything about the human body and very specific things which is very helpful, I think, to all the athletes. It gives us a better sense of how to improve our running skills so I think it’s been an overall good experience for everyone involved.”
A particular point of interest that Straubel wants to investigate is the idea of college “minor” sports and their tendency to be undervalued across the country.
“So I’ve been gathering information and want to dig deeper into some of the recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the NCAA that look at the future of the NCAA and in a sense what changes are coming. And in a sense how to protect them [minor sports] from being cut,” Straubel said.
The concept has come from recent memory, as Valpo’s cross country team experienced budget cuts that gave them an inability to have a normal season last year.
“Well all the teams had budget cuts and we couldn’t compete. We only had one conference championship in March when the cross country season is a fall sport,” Straubel said. “It harmed some of the preparation of the freshman.”
Straubel hopes the university will begin to support the team more in the future, as the university will also be looking for a new replacement for him.
“That’s always been a source of frustration for the team. We are handicapped compared to our
competition. We’re not funded the way the rest of the conference is and the majority of Division I schools. I hope that the success we’ve achieved encourages, allows the university to fund the sport, to fund the team better,” Straubel said. “We have a hierarchy of teams here and we’re at the bottom and I’d like to see the success we’ve had and what I’ve tried tobeapushtohelpus.Tohelpusbe funded, treated a little better.”