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Women's Hockey & Golf Coach Alma Mater: Wesleyan '83 Years at Midd: 25

Women’s Hockey & Golf Coach
Alma Mater: Wesleyan ’83
Years at Midd: 25

Interview with Bill Mandigo

Interviewed by Jordan Glatt

Bill Mandigo is head women’s ice hockey coach (25th season, five national championships), head women’s golf coach (5th season), assistant baseball coach (8 years), and assistant football coach (20 years).  He graduated from Wesleyan in 1983 and started at Middlebury in 1988.

 

“(Athletics) are like a fifth class.  I think there are as many lessons learned on the practice field, or on the golf course, on the ice rink, or in the pool as there are in a classroom.  These are different lessons though.  These are lessons about accountability, respect, ownership, trust, and being a good teammate.”

 

 

J: Why did you decide to come to Middlebury?

 

B: It was timing.  90 percent of your life is timing; being in the right place at the right time, when the right job opens up.  I went to Wesleyan and my dad went to Middlebury, and I looked at Middlebury briefly but I wasn’t really interested in coming up here.  Going back to Wesleyan,when I was at Wesleyan, I played three sports and I thought my coaches had the greatest lives.  They got to coach different sports; there weren’t just one-sport coaches, and the fact that they wore different hats, they got to do different things and dealt with different people, I thought that was awesome.  So Middlebury ended up being the job that was open for football and women’s hockey.  You had to have both, and I had to have hockey and football which is a strange combination because those overlap. So anyway, that job opened up and I was coaching both of those at the Hill School, and if it wasn’t Middlebury, it was hopefully some place else, but it was Middlebury that had the position, and then one thing led to another.

 

J: Did Division III have anything to do with your decision or would you have taken a position at a Division I school if it was open?

 

B: Again, I think it goes back to if I had to coach football twelve months a year, I don’t think I would like that.  I wouldn’t want to do hockey twelve months a year; I don’t think I would like that.  I think the fact that you can do different things and be part of different people’s lives is way more attractive.  Again, going to a NESCAC school or a small liberal arts college, that was just more appealing to me.

 

J: Also, why do you think you have chosen to stay here for as long as you have?

 

B: It’s a great place.  I had opportunities to leave, but I haven’t found a school or a location or a situation that was better than here.  It’s a great place from a family standpoint; it’s a great place to raise your kids.  They love Middlebury.  My wife works at the college, and she loves her job and the people she works with.  And the idea that we have unbelievable facilities, it’s a great school, it’s in a great location, and the people who come to Middlebury are top-notch, so it’s not like you are going to find better things somewhere else; you may find different things.  Or if I had gone to a Division I or an Ivy, then it just goes back to doing the same thing all year long.  So that is why I have stayed.

 

J: What is one thing that really stands out to you in your early years here at Middlebury?

 

B: When I first came here, Middlebury was different than it is now. Back then, the facilities aren’t what they are now and the academics weren’t what they are now.  It was a little bit of a different place.  It was still Middlebury with all of the mountains and all of the skiing.  I’m not saying it was better and I’m not saying it was worse, it was just a different place with a different feel to it.  I don’t know how to explain it, it was just different.  I know I’m not answering your question, and I apologize.

 

J: So you were talking about how Middlebury has changed over the years, so do you think that the creation of Title IX or the creation of the NESCAC altered that in some way?

 

B: In some ways, I think Middlebury has been ahead of Title IX.  The fact that Middlebury has had women since the 1880s has kind of helped, and I know that a lot of the NESCAC schools didn’t accept women until the 1970s.  There were completely separate schools, but Middlebury has had women since the 1880s, and I think Middlebury has been in the forefront, a little bit ahead.  I do think that because of the location and the type of school that it is, it is very attractive to women, but in the twenty-five years that I have been here, I don’t feel like Title IX has been an issue due to a lack of fairness or equity.  Maybe every once in a while, but not like it has been at other places.

 

J: What are some of your most successful seasons, and who are the most exceptional athletes and people associated with the program that you can recall?

 

B: From a hockey standpoint, we have won five national championships.  In the mid-90s, I was probably one of the only full-time hockey coaches and kind of got a head start on the recruiting process, but the fact that the men were successful helped.  That kind of opened up people’s eyes and we got to be pretty good.  At one point, we won one hundred and thirty-something games in a row in Division III.  Like I said, I was full time and I was using some of the techniques I had learned in recruiting for football in recruiting for hockey.  So it kind of pushed us to the front of the pack for a while.  And then in the early 2000s, we won the national championship in 2000 and 2001, and then we kind of fell off a little bit, not a whole lot, but off a little bit.  We then got it back again in ’04, ’05, and ’06.  Those teams all had very good players who were cohesive units who just had a will to win.  They were remarkable groups to be around.  That was really fun and really challenging in its own way.  To repeat as a national champion is pretty hard to do and to three-peat is even more difficult.  So it was a good period of hockey for Middlebury, and we have been close but we haven’t been quite up to that since.  I am assuming that you are just talking about hockey, right?

 

J: Well, I know that you have also coached football, baseball, and golf, so how has coaching multiple sports at once changed your coaching philosophy or your outlook on athletics here at Middlebury?

 

B: You try to balance everything in your lives.  I talk all the time about balance: balance in your academics, balance in your social life, balance with your athletic life, balance with your family life, and balance with everything else that goes on.  When I first came to Middlebury, football was the priority and hockey was important but not what it is today.  I remember the football coach telling me to make sure they like you, make sure that you show up on time, and make sure that you care about them.  That has changed drastically.  As the years went by, it would be twenty years of football and hockey and recruiting for both.  We usually have a two week overlap with football and hockey, and leaving the football field and six-thirty or quarter of seven, and then coming into hockey practice from seven to nine.  It began to become very trying, especially as you get older.  Coaching football is a lot of hours and a lot of work.  As hockey grew and became stronger and stronger, and more important, trying to balance the football kids, the head football coach knew I was still working and still cared, but I still needed to make sure that the hockey kids knew that I cared.  I wouldn’t be in this office (the ice hockey office) very often during football season.  I was always in the third floor staff room.  For the hockey kids to get to me was pretty hard.  They would have to literally call and make an appointment as opposed to now just walking in and stopping by and saying hi.  It was a challenge, as I said.  As the years have gone, whatever sport you are coaching, requirements have grown, whether it is recruiting or setting up travel.  It is like your kingdom and you need to make sure that everything is done right and done well and make sure that everything is done that falls underneath the direction of Erin Quinn, the athletic director, and that everything has to be done under his approval.  It has to follow NESCAC guidelines and NCAA guidelines.  And if you are a hockey player or a baseball player, you care about hockey or you care about baseball, you don’t care that you are coaching football too.  Try to make people understand that there are things in our lives, as coaches, that are difficult too.  Also throw in that you have a family and other things like teaching classes or something else.  There have been challenges in trying to balance everything and to make sure that everyone felt that they were being treated fairly.  Like I tell the hockey kids, you don’t have to treat everyone equally, you just have to treat everyone fairly.  That’s the way it goes.

 

J: Then kind of going off of that with your secondary assignment as the physical education golf instructor, how has that also affected your relationship with student-athletes?

 

B: That’s a different level of communication and different opportunity to meet other student-athletes, well I guess that aren’t really considered student-athletes, and sometimes you comes across kids that you really like and connect with and other times it is a little bit tedious.  I’m sure it’s that way with a lot of people, but the kids go out to golf and want to learn and really care. We have had some great kids that are good communicators and go out to the driving range and you show them things and you start talking about their lives and what their majors and goals are.  They are kids that you would have never known or seen on campus because you just deal with the athletes.  So I think it opens another window to Middlebury and it gives you a different path to walk on every once in a while.  As I said, sometimes it is a really good path to walk down and sometimes it can be a little tedious if someone is not communicative and kind of shy and not outgoing.

 

J: Also, over the course of your career at Middlebury, what kinds of changes have you seen in the relationship between sports, academics, and other aspects of campus life?

 

B: I think that academically, it is a lot harder to get into Middlebury than it was when I first got here.  It is a lot harder to get in here in 2013 than it was in 2004.  The Middlebury name is an unbelievable name that the level of academics that you need to get in here, transcripts, test scores, and all of that outside activity that you have to do has risen drastically in the last twenty-five years and even more so I would say since 2000, it has gone through the roof.  I mean, it is what it is.  If you want to be one of the better schools in the country or in the world, you better change what you need to get into places like this.  At the same time, anyone who coaches has a certain level of competitiveness in them and you want to be successful.  It doesn’t mean that you have to win championships every season, but you want to be successful.  You want to coach good athletes and kids that want to do well.  So there have been challenges at times from wondering or worrying that the academics are so high that you can’t find kids that fit the athletic model.  You still want smart, bright, intelligent players, but when you play some of the other schools, the Plattsburghs, the Elmiras, we don’t fish from the same pond.  From the golf standpoint, Ithaca or Wellesley or Vassar; they are not recruiting the same kids we are.  It also depends on how much support you get with admissions, but I think that through the years, there is probably now a closer relationship between athletics and academics where they are a lot closer in hand.  Admissions knows for the most part how hard we go after it and look for kids.  We know that athletes have to have a certain academic standard or they are not going to be accepted to Middlebury.  It is a challenge.  It is probably one of the harder challenges that we have: finding kids who can make you better and are acceptable and want to be here.  Those are usually the three things that I like to talk about.  Who is acceptable, who makes us better, and who wants to be here?

 

J: How do you think that athletics have enriched the experiences of students here at Middlebury?

 

B: It’s like a fifth class.  I think there are as many lessons learned on the practice field, or on the golf course, on the ice rink, or in the pool as there are in a classroom.  These are different lessons though.  These are lessons about accountability, respect, ownership, trust, and being a good teammate.  All of these are lessons that last a lifetime.  I think that’s part of the reason why the NESCAC schools believe that athletics are important.  I mean the school isn’t making any money from sports, it’s not like you’re getting television rights or selling out stadiums.  Middlebury and the other NESCAC schools certainly believe that athletics are really important and they add a certain educational component to people’s lives.  There was a man who sent his daughter to play for me and his son played for Coach Beaney, and they were both here at the same time.  He was a great guy, and I still talk with him.  He was wealthy enough that he could write the checks for both kids at the same time.  Whatever it cost for both of them to go here, he could just take out the checkbook and pay for both kids.  And one day he said to me, “My kids are on a scholarship at Middlebury,” and I kind of looked at him and wondered what he meant by this because he writes the check.  He said, “I write the check for the kids to go to classes.  I am not writing the check for my daughter to play for you or for my son to play for Bill Beaney.  The fact that they get that experience is the scholarship.  They have opportunities to play hockey and learn from other players and learn those lessons.  I write the check; that is the same thing that everybody gets.  What they get playing sports, that’s something different because they are the athletes and no one else gets that.  That’s the scholarship.”  That was a great way of looking at it.  And if you think about it, you’ve got friends or classmates that don’t get to play golf at Taconic.  And it’s not the fact that you are playing golf at Taconic that’s important, the fact is that when you go bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, you don’t quit and answer the questions of how do you get it back, how do you work through it, and how do you motivate yourself to do better next time.  Golf is one of the most unbelievable sports here that people don’t get.  You are out there by yourself for five hours or even six hours.  How do you deal with adversity?  Say you put one in the middle of the trees and lose your ball, how do you get it back?  There’s no walking off, there’s no teammate to talk to.  These are invaluable lessons that you are getting in golf that are part of the scholarship that other people in your classes or on your hall aren’t getting.  There are some things that you are getting that the hockey girls aren’t getting, and there are some things that you aren’t getting that the hockey girls are getting.  But it is still something unique to you and something that athletes will hopefully take with them that will last a lifetime.

 

J: And this is kind of going in a completely separate direction, but what is the relationship between the coaching staff and the athletic administration?

 

B: Erin Quinn in an unbelievable athletic director.  He is one of my best friends.  I think he does an unbelievable job.  He is a Middlebury grad, Middlebury coach, and has moved up the ranks.  He is my youngest daughter’s godfather.  So I think he has done a phenomenal job.  There have been three athletic directors since I’ve been here, and I think they have all been great.  If you go back to your Title IX stuff at the beginning, I always credit the athletic directors, because the first athletic director when I came here, Tom Lawson had three daughters, the next athletic director, Russ Reilly, had three daughters, and now Erin Quinn has one daughter and one son.  He gets it.  His wife was Tom Lawson’s daughter, so they get the Title IX stuff.  I think that the athletic administration has been phenomenal.

 

J: Has there been anyone in particular here who has served as a mentor for you?

 

B: I think I would put the old football coach, Mickey Heineken, in that boat.  He retired in 2000. Obviously Bill Beaney from a hockey standpoint.  There are people here that I respect and trust.  And if I had issues or questions about how to do certain things or deal with certain kids, there are people I would go talk to and ask their opinions.  I always say that the purpose of the NESCAC education is that you learn how to inquire.  That you ask questions and then you sit down and sift through answers and you come up with your own opinions.  I think that there are people here who you can ask questions and listen to their answers, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what to do.  Bill Beaney would be a mentor.  It’s tough because now I am getting to be one of the older people in this building so there aren’t many older.

CONTINUE TO MORE INTERVIEWS

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