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Marquart dismissed as head wrestling coach

A second winter activities coach has been tossed into the center of turmoil, as wrestling head coach Steve Marquart has been fired as the leader of the West Fargo Packer wrestling program.

Marquart, whose teams captured five straight regular season Eastern Dakota Conference championships over the last five years, and four straight region titles, was informed by Superintendent Chuck Cheney earlier this month that he would not be invited back as the head coach of the varsity boys wrestling team, a position hes held for the last 12 years. Cheney, in fact, asked Marquart to submit a resignation back on March 4.

We had a brief conversation about it, and I informed him that he wouldnt be asked back, Cheney said. I told him he could submit a resignation if he wanted to.

Marquart did not resign, and parents of wrestlers asked Cheney for a meeting at the Leidal Education Center, the main office of the West Fargo School District. Although Cheney heard from both wrestling parents and participants, it wasnt enough to sway his decision.

We had input from both sides, in fact, over the last week or so, Cheney said.

Both Cheney and activities director Curt Jones said Marquarts coaching methods were the reason for his dismissal. Marquart, who has done such controversial things as informed wrestlers of their progress reports in front of the entire team, was told that the ends did not justify the means.

We know that he has built a strong program, and that hes been successful, Cheney said. But there were issues and concerns with his methodology. The (West Fargo School) Board and the administration must make some tough decisions in order to make a program the best that it can be. We feel that this will help move us in that direction.

Cheney said he had a second meeting with Marquart after receiving feedback from parents. He said he again offered Marquart the opportunity to resign, and the wrestling coach refused. That led to what Cheney called a lengthy discussion last Tuesday night (March 15) where the superintendent aired his differences of opinion to Marquarts methods of coaching.

He asked for more specifics, which led to me revealing what caused me and others to lose confidence in the fact that he should continue in that job, Cheney said. When he left that meeting, I reassured him that this was a final decision. I told him that I had heard from his supporters. I reconsidered the reasons why I should continue to support him. And I tried to balance the reasons for change. And after my own feelings, the data weve received from several people, and the issues that weve dealt with this past year and in previous years, we decided this was the time to make the change.

Jones said that he had a great relationship with Marquart, though there were times when he was forced to take issue with some of Marquarts actions.

When you work with someone for a long time, you can feel like that person has become family, almost, Jones said. This was something that was very difficult to do, and there are details that we just cant discuss. But there were concerns, and those have been shared throughout the last couple of weeks. Weve lost a good person, but we want to keep the program in good shape.

Jones said there was not a timetable set for finding a new wrestling coach, though he said he would prefer if the new coach were also a teacher.

That would be our first choice, he said.

Marquarts firing came just days after Cheney shook up the West Fargo swim program, another school activity, electing to dismiss Marsha Dahl as the pool manager. Though Dahls coaching status was never in doubt, several people, including Board Members and swim parents, questioned if Dahl would stay on as coach in a District where she could not be the pool manager.

The issue with Marquart, conversely, had entirely to do with coaching. The wrestling coach, who came to West Fargo in 1994, will stay on as a social studies teacher at West Fargo High School, if he so chooses.

Cheney downplayed the impact that parental involvement had on the decision, saying that any coach will have differences with parents. He said he relied on specific instances that spotlighted Marquarts wrongdoing, whether it came from wrestlers, fellow coaches, parents or administrators.

We make our decisions on data, Cheney said. We would hope that a parent/coach conflict would be solved at that level, meaning the parent could go to the coach with the issue in question and discuss that, and then walk away with the feeling that the issue had been addressed. If it cant be solved at that level, then it needs to go to the activities director. In this case, we used facts to show why the program should move on without the current coach.

While Jones had little to do with the initial decision to release Dahl, he had a large role in the Marquart verdict. Cheney said in Dahls case, he was the one who wanted change. In the Marquart case, Cheney knew he would be the one to change lanes and make the deicision, but the two were of a like mind on the issue.

Whenever were looking at maybe not offering a current coach the opportunity to continue, much of the input needs to come from him (Jones), Cheney said. This is a much different situation than the Dahl issue. Its hard for an athletic director to make the shift from going along over the years and supporting the coach to all of the sudden going to that person and now saying that you cant support them anymore. Theres that point for any athletic director where its more difficult to get to that point. For me, Im not always in that lane. Im put in the position to react to whatever it might be. And thats one of the reasons we confer on those things and then come to a mutual decision.

Marquart made nearly $4,500 as the wrestling coach last season, a year where he led the Packers to a second place finish in the State A Dual Tournament and junior Chris Lundberg to a state title at 160 pounds.