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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Rusiewicz starts as new head football coach

This winter saw a whirlwind of change for the Guilford College Athletic Department. Less than two months after former head football coach Kevin Kiesel left Guilford, Chris Rusiewicz was announced as his replacement.

Rusiewicz formerly served as associate head coach at Ursinus College, a small liberal arts college in Collegeville, Pa.

The search happened quickly so recruitment season would not be delayed. In order to facilitate the search, a committee was formed. The members reviewed applicants and brought their concerns to committee discussions.

“I was concerned with how he would get students to come here,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow, who served on the committee. “For me, it was important that he recruits young men who want to come to Guilford first and play football second. If football doesn’t work out, they should still be happy here.”

“We were looking for a good person,” said Athletic Director Tom Palombo, who was also on the committee. “Not someone with head coaching experience, just a good guy who will recruit great young men to become members of Guilford College.”

Fetrow clarified Palombo’s statement, saying they wanted someone who would be excited about having their first head coaching job.

The committee received over 200 completed resumés, according to Palombo. From that, they narrowed down the search to three finalists who visited campus and participated in open forums during finals week.

 The finalists were also interviewed by President and Professor of Political Science Kent Chabotar.

“We were looking for someone with an emphasis more off the field than on it,” Chabotar said. “There should be an emphasis on connecting to the community, retention rates, graduation rates, and winning games — in that order.”

Chabotar also stressed the importance of being competitive.

“(Being competitive) means that on any given day, we can win,” Chabotar said. “It’s the same in my class: any student can come into my class and get an A. Now, not everyone is going to get an A, and we’re not always going to win. But the idea that it’s possible is important.”

During his visit to campus Rusiewicz impressed the committee.

“Chris had an authenticity about him,” said David Heggie ’99, who served on the committee. “He showed that he really cared about developing his players not only as football players, but as young men. He seemed like a great teacher about life, football, and academics.”

Rusiewicz also walked away from the process impressed.

“I thought the selection process here was very positive,” Rusiewicz said. “I wasn’t uncomfortable in terms of the way they treated me. They accepted me, I felt they were prepared, and they knew what they wanted.”

The committee offered Rusiewicz the job soon after the finalists made their visits.

During his first semester at Guilford, Rusiewicz has many expectations to live up to.

“I expect Chris to turn this into a program we can all be proud of,” Palombo said. “He’ll get the players to represent Guilford with class and integrity. He’ll get them to do well in class, in the community, and then on the football field. It’s not just about winning and losing. He gets that.”

“I think Chris will be able to bring out the passion for football that these guys have,” said junior and political science major Rachael Travis, who was the committee’s student representative.

“I also believe that Chris will be a person that students recognize when they see him around campus. I expect him to be a real presence on this campus as well as on the football field.”

With these expectations in mind, Rusiewicz has set his goals to focus on increasing the team’s average GPA, community service, and winning against Greensboro College.

“(At Ursinus) we started to win and show our faces,” Rusiewicz said. “We got involved in things other than just football. People started to support us during good and bad times and became proud of us.”

During his first week at Guilford, Rusiewicz talked to the players about his goals and expectations.

“He stressed the balance between life, academics, and sports,” said sophomore offensive lineman Donte’ Mitchell. “And wanted us to understand that those things came (respectively) first, second, and third.”

Mitchell came away from his first encounter with Rusiewicz with a positive impression.

“He seems very truthful and honest,” Mitchell said. “That’s good, because if there’s no trust, then there’s no need to have any relationship.”

However, people do not expect Rusiewicz’s tenure at Guilford to be without challenges.

“I think he’s coming into a really hostile atmosphere when it comes to the Guilford student body and football,” Travis said. “I think that it will be really hard for him to change the current attitude about Guilford football, but I think he’s up for it.”

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