By Kevin Wilson, Freedom Newspapers
After 17 years with Christine Blaeser at the helm, Eastern New Mexico University is seeking a change.
The school will not renew Blaeser’s contract, according to Athletic Director Mike Maguire and President Steven Gamble.
Blaeser was 134-171 in 17 years as Zia coach.
“I think that the 17 years of service with Eastern speaks for itself,” Blaeser said. “I try to do things in a positive manner, and I feel like I’ve given it my all.”
The Zias finished their season Friday a win over McMurry to break a nine-match losing streak. The team finished 4-13, with an 0-9 mark in the Lone Star Conference’s South Division.
Maguire thought Blaeser did a great job throughout her career, but felt the program just needed to win more matches.
“We’re just looking for someone that can get the program to step up,” Maguire said. “We had a lot of success with Coach Blaeser and she did a fine job. We’d fallen on hard times in recent years. You just see it all the time in sports.”
Since earning an NCAA regional berth in 2003, the team has gone 15-47 in four seasons.
Under Blaeser, the Zias reached seven consecutive regionals from 1996-97 to 2002-03, compiling a record of 87-53 over that stretch. The team made the NCAA national finals in 2000, losing 5-4 to the University of California-Davis. The Zias were ranked as high as No. 8 in Division II under Blaeser.
“I had a great experience at Eastern and I could not ask for a better learning experience, a better environment in which to do my college coaching career,” Blaeser said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with awesome professors in all different parts of the university.”
Gamble said the university “appreciates the services Christine Blaeser has given to it,” but declined comment on reasons for not renewing her contract, citing personnel matters.
Blaeser found out about her non-renewal Monday, and met with Gamble Tuesday.
“Let’s just say we agreed to disagree on several points,” Blaeser said.
The future of the tennis program is somewhat up in the air. Gamble said the university feels “it’s time to re-examine the tennis program.”
Gamble confirmed actions could include discontinuing the sport, but he would seek recommendations from the school’s athletic committee and discuss the matter with the Board of Regents.
If the school doesn’t keep tennis, Gamble said it wouldn’t be because of finances, and any money in the tennis budget would be used to strengthen existing athletic programs.
As far as Blaeser’s future, she said she would be willing to listen if another university calls about its tennis program, although she and her husband have “carved a life” in Portales.
“As far as the future goes, we have made a life here for ourselves,” Blaeser said. “I’ve had four kids during my 17 years at Eastern. We love raising our kids here. We would love to be able to stay in the area.”