By Wiley Henry
MEMPHIS, TN — Dr. Rochelle Stevens said a year ago that she was looking forward to “shaping and molding” the student athletes at LeMoyne-Owen College after accepting the job as head coach of both cross country and track and field.
The season was on the mark to begin this fall. And the first meet was set to take place indoors in January. But Stevens, a two-time Olympic gold and silver medalist, resigned “effectively” Nov. 10, citing “unfulfilled promises and obligations mutually agreed upon” with the historically Black college.
Stevens’ letter of resignation was addressed to Amy Smith, director of Human Resources, and LOC’s athletics director, William Anderson, who announced last year that the celebrated Olympian was joining the athletics department.
Dr. Vernell Bennett-Fairs, LOC’s president, also touted Stevens as local and national media rolled out the announcement. “We’re honored to have an Olympian,” Bennett-Fairs had said during the announcement.
Stevens noted in her resignation that one of the most exciting days of her career was accepting the coaching position at LOC, which she’d mulled over before agreeing to take the position.
The track and field program at LOC had been inactive since 1998. Stevens, however, was hired to revamp the program. “Our goal is to make you look good,” she told Bennett-Fairs during her acceptance speech.
But the excitement of it all “quickly diminished,” said Stevens, adding: “Due to the continued lack of support from the institution, it is with a heavy heart I find it prudent to part ways.”
“It is simply impossible for the track & field program to be successful without essential resources or support from the administration,” she said. “Nevertheless, the team and I persevered without adequate track facilities, transportation, uniforms, equipment, or an assistant coach….”
LOC issued a statement following Stevens’ resignation.
“We wish Dr. Stevens well in her future endeavors. We fiercely support our longstanding and successful athletics programs, which have shaped countless Magicians nationwide, with integrity. We will continue to build our startup track program into a premier offering for our student-athletes.”
The coaching position was ideally suited for Stevens, who won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
In just one year on the job, Stevens pointed out that the athletes in her charge had improved their “best time” on the track by two or more seconds. Now she’s looking forward to a “peaceful retirement.”