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Really Rivier? This latest firing is simply an awful look

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Mar 15, 2024

Seven months ago, Rivier University was celebrating the coaching legend that is Craig Kolek.

Thursday they took his key card and told him to go home. For good.

Really Raiders?

We’ve gone over this before, readers, right? But this time. they may have gone too far. Yes, the athletic department has been going through an overhaul. Coaching changes will happen with a new athletic director on board, an aggressive admissions and recruiting policy designed to prevent what’s happened to small, Division III private universities around the region (closure) from happening to Rivier. We get it.

Eight coaches have been dismissed or resigned over the last 18 months. It’s their school, their policies, and while you may not agree, that’s that.

But this latest move won’t sit well. Volleyball alums, and other alums from what we here in just a short amount of time are furious. Seven months after calling Kolek the best college volleyball coach of all-time, Harper’s subdued but always professional voice had to relay the news that Kolek was no longer employed by the university. It certainly doesn’t seem like it was his decision.

But this just enhances what we keep hearing is a very tough atmosphere for many in the athletic department – which one might expect given the dismissal of eight coaches, a trainer, and who knows who else. As Kolek did say yesterday, “I’ve been telling people for two years that I’ve been waiting to get fired.”

This from a guy who, as Harper said of Kolek back in August – and his words were genuine, don’t doubt that – “He is the first coach you think of when you think of Rivier Athletics.”

And now instead Kolek is the poster guy for what many feel has been a tough, trying period for Rivier athletics, no matter what success some of these changes have brought.

Western Connecticut State volleyball coach Don Ferguson played for Kolek, was one of the first male students when the school went co-ed over three decades ago. He has been a coach in the college ranks for awhile, and fired off a well-written email to Rivier president Sister Paula Marie Buley, who we feel does need to be heard on what has been going on over the last couple of years, because none of this happens without her approval. The university has to know this is a bad look.

“Craig Kolek remains loyal to his beliefs and morals today and it perhaps cost him his employment,” Ferguson said in his email to Buley, which he shared with The Telegraph.

It’s come to light that Kolek had a very serious, ongoing issue with a member of the administration not Buley or Harper. Those close to the situation feel this may have been – and we’re treading lightly with the word “may” – a factor in his firing. We’ll probably never know for certain because Rivier is under no obligation to say and for legal reasons certainly never will.

But one thing we do know is that the good feeling that we saw last month with a great Muldoon Center atmosphere at the Raider men’s and women’s GNAC basketball play-in games, plus the great job women’s hockey did to pick up the pieces from a tough situation and get to a league final have been replaced by a bad taste in many mouths.

“The reputation of Rivier has been sullied,” Ferguson wrote.

Thursday was a dark day for Rivier. And a dark day for local sports overall.

How many more do we have to endure?

Really Raiders?

Tom King can be reached at

tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or on X, formerly twitter, @Telegraph _TomK.


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