By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – The 2020-21 school year was one most won’t forget. That couldn’t be more true for Brent Doty, who went through quite a year of professional change and personal challenges.
The school year had already started in haste last August, COVID the elephant in the room as no one really knew what the school year would look like. It was eggshells for school administrators all over the state as the first couple weeks of school got underway, but Wawasee’s administration would find itself in a different conundrum when it chose to put athletic director Cory Schutz on administrative leave in late August.
The reaction to a Change.org petition against Schutz and purported inappropriate behavior had the school place him on administrative leave just ahead of Labor Day weekend. That put Doty in a very precarious position. Sitting as assistant athletic director, but also a teacher and baseball coach, Doty’s plate was full before Labor Day. As life in a pandemic was already forcing adjustments on the fly, Doty was now in quite a spot.
“Obviously, it was an honor when we went to road contests and I was announced as the AD, because that wasn’t the case,” offered Doty. “I mean, it was different hearing me called that, but at the same time I wanted to be out front of it, who I was interacting with, be honest that I was still just the assistant. Early on, I was still teaching a little bit but they were able to get those covered for me to just be in the AD role. There were some highs and lows, for sure.”
Doty’s role with Wawasee athletics then became the worst kept secret in a community that was already abuzz about what happened in August. And all Doty could do was embrace his new role and do the best he could. Perhaps even to his own standard, Doty pulled off quite a solid job in not only keeping the department moving, but doing it well.
The fall calendar finished up without much hitch, the school hosting the Unified Flag Football regional tournament for the first time, and then ambled into the winter season. COVID reared its ugly head and slowed down several of the programs, including multiple bouts within both basketball programs and wrestling, but the Warriors pushed on. Doty found himself leaning upon the school’s administration quite a bit, including principal Geoff Walmer, assistant principal John Snyder and athletic secretary Anne Richey, among many others.
As Doty navigated through another two sectional tournaments, a wild girls basketball tourney that saw Lakeland win its first tournament since the mid-1990s, and then gymnastics host its annual sectional. It was at the gymnastics sectional where rumors of a shift in the athletic department were starting to surface, but it was just another weekend of Doty having to work with his head down, just trying to get to baseball season.
“Even being the assistant AD at the time, you still are tied to the programs but I did catch myself starting to see the events happen differently,” Doty said. “It’s a different lens. Safety is number one. You can’t just be a casual fan and just walk a couple officials back to the locker rooms. You have to worry about the spectators, are the players safe, is the facility prepared to host. You start looking around and checking all the details rather than just a couple.”
Finally, March hit and Wawasee boys basketball signified the final winter sport to bow out after a loss to NorthWood at the West Noble Boys Basketball Sectional, one where a good 75 percent of the seats were full for the Friday and Saturday games. Doty, who was entering what would be his final season as head baseball coach, was just happy to be back to some normalcy.
The Warriors opened the baseball season 4-0 in quite an up-and-down season. Wawasee would win its first sectional championship since 1997, Doty and the Warriors beating NorthWood, 3-2, on its home soil for the title. The season would end a week later at the Bellmont Regional in a loss to Norwell, closing a very fond chapter to Doty’s story.
He would be officially named the director of athletics for Wawasee High School in a school board meeting on June 8, ending a year of sitting quiet and having to dodge so many questions. Now, he’s going to have to answer all of them.
“I wouldn’t say that I have a checklist for the sports where we have to set the bar too high that we can’t get there realistically, but I feel like we have good coaches in place to get us where we could go,” Doty said. “We will have standards, we will compete. We always want sectional success at the individual and team levels. We can grow, and that’s where we have to start.”