By DAN ZIELINSKI
Kearney Hub Sports Writer
KEARNEY — Marc Bauer spent 17 years building the University of Nebraska at Kearney wrestling into one of the premier programs in Division II. Under Bauer’s guidance, 90 UNK wrestlers earned All-American honors, including 22 national champions and 15 national runner-up finishes.
Bauer stepped down as wrestling coach in 2016. He’s now trying to affect UNK athletics in a new role, serving as the department’s interim athletic director following the departure of Paul Plinske.
Serving in his new position since May 20, Bauer sat down with UNK beat writer Dan Zielinski on June 27 to discuss the state of the athletic program and his goals as the interim AD.
Q: How has the adjustment been in your new role as the interim athletic director?
MB: There’s been a little bit of an adjustment. I think with anything there’s always a learning curve. The great part with me stepping into this position is that we already have a senior staff in place who already knows what’s going on here. I’m learning. I’m learning a lot. It’s been a challenge, obviously. I went from coaching to teaching to back here to administration. The change has been good just because there’s people who know what they’re doing around here. They’re showing me the ropes.
Q: With the elimination of three sports, how’s the athletic department transitioning to its next chapter?
MB: I went through cuts at UNO because I wrestled at UNO, and when you eliminate something that has a direct impact on your people, that’s tough. I’ve learned very quickly how networked our community is. For many people, if it didn’t directly affect them, it indirectly affected them in some way. The elimination of sports, and not just sports because I think people lose the fact that $450,000 was eliminated from our budget and $1.2 million was eliminated off the academic side. A lot more of a severe impact on our institution than athletics actually.
It’s just that sports are more visible in our society and in our community especially. What coach Damon Day did with our program and what Wes Bernt did with golf and with Jake Saulsbury with tennis, they were being very successful. It’s really hard for our society and community to understand that our economy is thriving and our community is thriving and, yet, we are taking cuts. That’s a tough piece to swallow. Where are we at now? It’s still tough. The three coaches still are in the building, and it’s going to take time.
I think there’s some people that were so invested in those sports that they probably will never be a fan of ours. I have a tough time personally being a fan of UNO. Not just for the elimination but for how they were eliminated. That’s the tough piece. But at the same token, I’m trying to look at everything from an optimistic point of view that I think there’s always a silver lining in the cloud.
I think something positive will come from the change and that we will continue to move forward. I think that’s something we need to stay focused on. We still have a lot of student-athletes who we have to take care of here. They’re our No. 1 priority. They are our common purpose. It’s been tough. I’m not going to lie to you, I think things are going to be a little challenging for awhile. I know there’s some people who will never appreciate what we do because of those eliminations, but at the same token, we have to keep moving forward.