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Angry alum: No more money for Cal U

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

A California University of Pennsylvania alumnus decided to pull his financial support after an assistant women's basketball coach's contract was not renewed.

In a letter addressed to interim President Geraldine Jones and obtained by The Valley Independent, Daniel Smith, of Carmichaels, expressed his “immense disgust” and voiced his “utter disbelief and shamed embarrassment” in the nonrenewal of Annie Malkowiak's contract as a part-time assistant basketball coach.

“It goes beyond the coaching, though,” Smith said in his letter. “I've known Annie both professionally and personally for 14 years. She truly is the heart and soul of the Athletic Department and the poster child for Cal U in what you want your students, players, and alums to strive for in representing Cal U. ... This invoking has been without due process and certainly with blatant disregard to those intimately affected by your decision.”

In his letter to Jones, Smith said he has raised more than $200,000 for the university as well as securing a substantial trust naming Cal U the benefactor from an unspecified alumnus at a significant amount of money.

“That $200,000 was just what my name went on, that number is much higher,” the former Cal U football player said.

“I'll be damned if any of those folks will renew their sponsorships. I've heard there are donors that are looking to pull their sponsorships of the athletic department and the university. I've also heard of distinguished alumni that are no longer contributing to the university as a whole.

Malkowiak is still employed as manager of athletic promotions/marketing, according the university's website.

Malkowiak and Cal U women's head coach Jess Strom could not be reached for comment.

University Spokeswoman Christine Kindl issued the following statement, “Annie Malkowiak's year-to-year contract as a part-time assistant basketball coach has not been renewed. She is still employed full-time as manager of athletic relations at Cal U. This employment decision was made through the appropriate process. Because this involves an employee and her contract, we will have nothing further to add.”

Dr. Michael Slavin is president of the Cal U chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. The organization represents university faculty and coaches.

Slavin said he attended the meeting in which Malkowiak was told that her contract was not being renewed.

“Obviously this is something that someone with a lot more power pulled off,” Slavin said of the situation. “All that was said is that they were going in a different direction. Do they have the right to do it that way? Yes, and it's just terrible.”

Slavin said that a part-time coach with less than 50 percent of full-time equivalent doesn't have the same rights as coaches on higher levels.

“What I'm concerned about is that other assistant coaches are at the same level and can be dismissed just as quickly,” Slavin said.

“It's ironic, because this is something the previous administration did. They set up the system that way. (Annie) had been working under the same contract that she started with. Yes, they do have the right to do it that way, and it's unfortunate.”

Smith and another alumnus, Tammy Mandich, of Washington, Pa., want a reason for Malkowiak's coaching contract not being renewed.

“This is craziness,” Mandich said. “There's two sides to every story, and I don't know the contractual issues. I do know, as a school administrator myself, that we have to go through a due process. You have to give a reason why you are dismissing someone, or in this case, not renewing a contract.

“Why does the men's basketball team have a full-time, paid assistant coach? Doesn't Title IX come into play? Maybe they should try a different direction with the men's team, because they haven't been nearly as successful as the women's team.”

Mandich is close to the women's basketball program and has attended practices, games, and workouts, because her daughter serves as the team's manager. She said Malkowiak never had a poor evaluation.

In her letter to Jones, obtained by The Valley Independent, Mandich said she was shocked when her daughter told her of Malkowiak's situation.

The letter states, “My daughter stated that players were informed by Coach Strom and Athletic Director Karen Hjerpe that you said the program needs to go in a different direction and they are not allowed to discuss, tweet, or post on Facebook any information about this event. ... Since when do First Amendment rights no longer exist?”

Like Smith, Mandich is yet to receive a response from the university.

Fundraising is where the university is going to take a hit, Smith said.

“Her approach with donors and potential donors was like nothing I had ever seen,” Smith said of Malkowiak in his letter to Jones. “The dollars meant scholarship opportunities for kids. That's what it was all about for Annie.”

Discussing the matter this week, Smith said, “I just don't understand. This is definitely not a good thing for the university. I would love to see how this is presented as being in the best interest of the university.”

Smith, a former director of athletic development at Cal U, said he and other alumni have contacted members of the university's council of trustees, which board Chairman Larry Maggi confirmed.

“I've responded to just about everyone that has reached out to me,” said Maggi, a Washington County commissioner.

“We have been informed of the situation and are aware that some alumni are very upset. The problem is that the council of trustees serves as an advisory body. The interim president can do as she sees fit. There's nothing we, as a council, can do about the situation.”

The council is in the midst of a search for Cal U's next president.

Smith was appointed interim president after the State System of Higher Education Board of Governors fired longtime Cal U President Angelo Armenti Jr. nearly a year ago.

“I'm not even sure why Jones was appointed as the interim president,” Smith said. “She's not qualified. She may have served in roles that made her familiar with the intricacies of the position; maybe that's why. I would think the number one factor for not being qualified is that she doesn't have a (doctorate).

“When it comes to Annie's situation, in the athletic department there is a chain of command. If there were complaints against her, that chain should be followed, just like in the business world.

“There is a hierarchy to the system, and not only is it unprofessional, it's extremely unethical to violate it.”

Smith has stopped referring to Cal U as “his” university, which he called heartbreaking.

“I met my wife there and picked up numerous friends and business contacts there,” Smith said of Cal U. “The situations that have been going on as of late, they've given the university a black eye. This situation with Annie was the final straw. It's no longer my university.”

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jsellew@tribweb.com or 724-684-2667.

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