Aug. 4, 2007
SPOKANE, Wash. - Brad Rickel, men's and women's golf coach at Gonzaga University during the 1998-99 season, is returning to the Bulldogs as head women's golf coach, Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth announced Saturday.
And Rickel, in addition to be given the opportunity to return to Gonzaga to coach women's golf, had his decision enhanced for much the same reason he went to the University of Idaho eight seasons ago - so his wife could continue to pursue her professional goals as well.
Rickel's wife, Karen, wanted to pursue her master's and Ph.D. When the Idaho position opened he got the job so his wife could pursue her degrees. Move forward eight years and Karen is now an assistant professor at Gonzaga in the Department of Sport and Education. They have lived in Spokane for the past year, along with children Darby, 5, and Madison, who will be two in September. All the while, Brad has commuted back-and-forth to Moscow as coach of the Vandals.
"I look at this as coming home," said Rickel, a native of Spokane who attended Gonzaga Prep, Gonzaga University for two years and graduated from Eastern Washington University. "It's emotionally tough to leave a great place like Idaho and players you recruited, but my wife is excited, I'm excited and I'll get to see my kids more."
Roth said current head golf coach Robert Gray, who replaced Rickel eight years ago, will assume the fulltime responsibilities of men's golf coach.
Roth said Rickel's hiring is nothing but a positive for Bulldog golf.
"This is a great situation for Gonzaga golf," Roth said. "Robert has grown the men's and women's programs to the point where it became increasingly difficult for one person to oversee both programs. We had the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in Brandon Crick and one of the top female golfers in the conference in Mary Kate Morgan this past year, not to mention all of the other outstanding golfers Robert has recruited to Gonzaga. The time has come to split the programs into two distinct entities. With Brad's return to coach the women and Robert concentrating solely on the men, the future is as bright as it has ever been."
Rickel has built the Vandals into one of the top programs on the West Coast. This past season the Vandal women captured the Western Athletic Conference title, placed 12th at the NCAA Regionals and had an individual advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Vandals qualified either an individual or a team for the NCAA Regionals seven of the eight years he was at the helm of the men's and women's programs. The women earned regional qualifying in 2001 and 2002, with the men advancing to the Regionals in 2000 after capturing the Big West Conference title. The women won the Big West crown in 2001.
In his eight years at Idaho the Vandal women won 19 tournaments with 16 runner-up finishes, while the men captured eight tournament titles and were runner-up seven times. He had 21 women and seven men earn either first or second team all-conference honors. Off the course he had 29 conference all-academic selections and five academic All-Americans.
And Rickel thinks he can raise Gonzaga to the same level.
"My last year at Gonzaga was the year the men's basketball team went to the NCAA Elite Eight and the athletic department has taken off since. I left before it got going, but I've watched it grow. I've always been a Zags fan and it as fun to watch the department keep growing and growing," Rickel said. "It's a completely different place then when I left."But not so much different he's not looking forward to the return.
"My wife and I love the smaller university, although Gonzaga's enrollment has probably doubled since I left. But it's more of a family, you know more people and everybody knows each other. It's a great place to go to school, not to mention a great education," he said.Rickel thinks he can follow much the same model he used at Idaho to take the Bulldogs to the next level.
"I know this sounds a little corny, but it's all about having a passion for where you are and what you do. I love college golf, and I have the passion to be as good as we can be wherever I am. I think our success at Idaho was a combination of us working hard and recruiting the right kids, and once they got to Idaho we worked with them and pointed them in the right direction, all of which can be done at Gonzaga. Robert has laid a great foundation and I can build on it with hard work and passion."
Rickel holds a Class A PGA Professional status. He has golf course experience, working at Spokane's Manito Golf and Country Club as first assistant PGA Golf Professional from 1994-98 and at the Creek at Qualchan in Spokane as assistant PGA Golf Professional in 1999.
He will assume his new duties at Gonzaga Aug. 14.