In her first season at the helm, IPFW Athletic Director Kelley Hartley Hutton was faced with a year of transition for herself, some new coaches as well young rosters on many of the Mastodons’ athletic programs.
"(With) four new head coaches, there’s going to be some transition time," Hartley Hutton said. "It’s a lot of new energy and excitement. It’s fun. It’s good to turn some programs over. Some new coaching blood in our department because it does feel like there’s a different energy."
This year’s new coaches were Steve Florio with women’s volleyball, Jason Burr with women’s soccer, Jon Coffman with men’s basketball and Germaine Fairchild with softball.
Florio and Coffman were assistant coaches prior to their role as head coach. Florio was under Hartley Hutton and Coffman under Tony Jasick, who is now at Jacksonville.
Men’s basketball earned its second consecutive CollegeInsider.com Tournament bid in Coffman’s first year. Coffman was also a finalist for the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year award.
Men’s tennis and baseball fell in the Summit League tournament championship, and women’s basketball was faced with a rebuilding year with a young roster.
"They were young last year," Hartley Hutton said of women’s basketball. "In Division I athletics, it’s difficult to win when the core of your team is so young."
But the upcoming recruiting classes provide hope for the future success of the program.
"I love coach (Chris) Paul’s recruiting philosophy in terms of he’s getting a lot of Indiana kids. If you look at the student-athletes coming in – just exciting local talent."
This coming year, IPFW will have new coaches in Ryan Perrotte with men’s volleyball and a yet-to-be-determined coach for women’s golf after Jessica Steward stepped down.
Perrotte is taking over for veteran coach Arnie Ball.
"There aren’t many institutions that can send out a longtime coach with his history and the impact he made, not just on athletics, but on the community and institution and the sport," Hartley Hutton said. "Sending him out the way we did, we were really proud of that with naming the court and raising the funds.
"He’ll always be a friend, and we got some ideas on how to keep him involved. He’s always going to be a Mastodon and so important to this program."
Throughout the ups and downs of the year, though, academic success never faltered.
The accolades the institution received are a direct correlation of the three values that the athletic department instills in its athletes, Hartley Hutton said.
"Academic success, social responsibility and athletic intensity," she said. "They’re not numbered, but those three core values, they’re probably in order there.
"I don’t know that every Division I institution can truly place academics first. I don’t know that you can. We are able to do that. Though competing at a high level is clearly a goal and we do that."
IPFW had 75 student-athletes earning spots on the Summit League Academic Honor Roll for winter and spring sports and 93 athletes and five teams earned a spot on the league’s Commissioner’s List.
The athletes also logged over 2,000 hours of community service over the past year through many events including Fort4Fitness, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Mini Dons programs.
"The community service, that’s where social responsibility comes in," Hutton said. "In my mind, it’s not just staying out of trouble. That’s a basic expectation. It’s take it a step forward and being a good citizen in our community."
To Hartley Hutton, athletic intensity goes beyond the W’s. It pertains to the practice and the character and hard work put in during practices.
"One of our goals this year is to rank in the top half of their respective league standings," she said. "I think, more importantly, the athletic intensity component is you want to win on game day but how do you prepare? Do you win every day when you walk out of practice? Did you get better? Did you give your best effort? What was your character like? Those are really important things about athletic intensity, too."
The values instilled in the athletes, coaches and administrators translated into an award of its own that was voted upon by other Summit League institutions.
"Our peers vote on how administrators, coaches, student-athletes in terms of character, how you’re treated when you come to campus, how they conduct themselves on the playing field," Hartley Hutton said.
"One thing we do really well is roll out the red carpet. It doesn’t matter the sport; if you’re competing in a championship, it needs to be a first-class endeavor."
IPFW played host to the men’s and women’s tennis tournaments this past year, their final season before the programs were cut to reallocate funds to other areas of the university.
The Mastodons also earned the honor to play host to the indoor track and field championships next February.