The men’s and women’s cross country field team received an email with news a day before their first practice of the season: the cross country and field assistant coach Scott Tanis would be leaving for a head coach position at St. Catherine University.
Senior athlete Patty Jo English recalls the emotional upheaval days following the announcement.
“Scott was more than a coach to everyone,” English said. “Scott was a mentor, a friend. He said ‘the hole that exists when he leaves, you need to fill that with love — with love for each other, with love we had for him’ — and I think that’s going to be really huge for our team going into the rest of this season.”
English said the news was not a surprise to her and the team.
“We don’t know the specifics being athletes,” she said. “But we did know he deserved more than what he was getting financially, and he would need to make a tough decision someday in the future.”
Tanis coached at Augustana for seven years, starting as a graduate assistant. Recently, he had tried for a full-time coaching position at Augustana.
“I’ve had some help in terms of some people on campus who have been able to do things for me, but at some point, it just wasn’t a long-term solution for me,” Tanis said. “I love this place, but I had to accept [that] maybe I don’t fit the long-term vision of the university’s athletic department. I probably should have accepted that years ago, but I just loved the team enough where I felt like I couldn’t leave.”
Tanis said during his time at the university he has worked full-time hours for part-time compensation. He was looking for more financial stability from Augustana’s end.
“Sometimes you have to work really, really hard for the sake of the work and not need it to be validated by anything,” Tanis said. “I look back on my seven years here, and I poured myself into this university. I just love the people here, and it didn’t maybe work out the way I wanted it to, but it was so worth it. I would do the same thing over.”
Athletic director Josh Morton said Tanis was a great coach. He said the athletics department worked on a deal to keep him coaching at Augustana.
“At the end of the day, we tried to figure out a way to keep him at Augustana, and he chose to be a head coach, which I support,” Morton said. “Anytime your assistants can be head coaches, what a great opportunity. So I think in the world of college athletics, that’s a big step.”
Finding a replacement coach for the team is on the backburner at the start of the season.
“Scott certainly left that position better than he found it, and so, we will find a great candidate because of it,” Morton said.
Tanis said leaving was difficult for him because of the unique atmosphere of the team and the relationships he has built over the years.
“It’s the most bittersweet thing I’ve ever had.” Tanis said. “I don’t want to leave Augustana, it’s an environment I really really care about, But, at the same time, I need to move on, and it’s a really cool opportunity for me as well.”
For Tanis, the position at St. Catherine University will be a challenge. He hopes to cultivate a similar team dynamic at the Division III school as the enviornment Augustana had.
“The slate is totally blank at St. Kate’s, so I’m excited going there to really test myself and see where we can go with the program.”
English said, Even though Tanis left, the team is excited to work more closely with Tracy Hellman who’s the head coach for men’s and women’s cross country/track and field.
“To move forward, we all need to take to heart all of the things that Scott has taught us and use those now and lean on each other.”
The Augustana cross country team competed in their first race of the season at the annual Augustana Twilight race last Friday.
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