Scott came to Highline during the 02/03 season after Todd Owens had been let go….even though it came after Highlines most successful placing at the national tournament, finishing in 6th place with three all-americans while qualifying 7 out of 10 weight classes which is respectable. So why let go of a coach that just led the school's wrestling team to a top ten finish? As Lee Corso would say…”Not so fast!,” and I will have to dive more in depth in the next article.
Back to Norton, who came to Highline after a stint at coaching at Lindbergh High School , however preluding that coaching venture, he had stops coaching at University of Indiana and the University of Oklahoma. Along with a storied wrestling career at the now defunct University of Oregon, where he was a NCAA All-American placing 4th at the national tournament, losing to Chris Bono in overtime in the semi finals. Norton was a 3x Pac Ten Champion, and sits in second for wins behind a Washington wrestler and former Auburn and Mead head coach Scott Bliss.
Looking at Scott’s pedigree, one would assume that he would be an instant success as a head coach at Highline. Division one all american, coaching at the division one level, coaching at the local high school level so he would be familiar with the lay of the land, etc, etc. But this is where the water starts to get a little bit murky. One of the problems that plagued highline, was a staff that wasn’t dedicated. Now don't misconstrued dedicated to not caring, because that's not what I mean. What I mean is having a staff that was dedicated to Highline wrestling and Highline wrestling alone. Which has been a bone of contention, particularly on why the wrestling coach at Highline is only paid 5,000k give or take, while the other coaches within the athletic department are earning anywhere from 60-80k, not including the athletic director who is earning over six figures.
Some may ask, “why is this happening, with the coach earning so little versus the other coaching staff?”. My theory is this, seeing that Norton is an elementary school teacher and has been now for 20+ years, along with a masters degree, he earns roughly between 95-103K a year. Without counting his coaching stipends and other earnings he gets from camps, etc. Along with the retirement he has paid into, and the health care that Washington Educators are now provided with, it's no wonder why he never chose to pursue Highline as a full time endeavor. In all honesty it probably would have been a cut in pay, but there again, why wasn't Norton approached by Dunn on a full time teaching position within Highline along with a head coaching position. Because to me that makes sense, being able to be on campus and teach some lit or p.e. Classes. Host recruits on campus visits, have an office where you can delegate and recruit, have a constant line of communication with the athletes on campus, brainstorming fundraising ideas, booster and alumni relations, and on and on.
Not saying that Norton didn't do any of the above mentioned ideas, but it may be hard to do those things when you are creating lesson plans, grading, hosting parent teacher conferences, all thirty miles from the college campus. Again, going back to the reasons he didn't take it were outweighed by the reasons for him to stay and teach. However, in doing so, it has left a situation where a coaching position is unattended and unfilled due to it only being a coaching position alone. Not a combination of being a professor, admissions counselor, and a coach. With all that being said there were ways this situation could have been totally avoided.
First, every year since Norton arrived it always seemed like Highline was on the brink of collapse and we as a state were going to lose our only non club program. Whether because Norton talked about leaving, financially, John Dunn, etc. There always seemed to be something, and more often than not it revolved around finances. Now to set the record straight, I am not calling anyone a thief, I am simply posing circumstances and questions surrounding them.
For example, every year, the highline wrestling coffers would be bare, even though highline would receive the funds either in the way of booster/alumni donations, or even a go fund me page. Which strikes me odd….Odd for the fact as an athletic department/ coaching staff, one would know how much to plan and fund raise for. With the cost of running the program alone is about 20K a year, you would have to wonder why this wasn't put into motion during that fiscal year? But yet, planning and fundraising seemed to be the last things to deal with.
For a while Highline had a few fundraisers contributing to the program, such as the thunderdome throwdown, and the Highline High School dual tournament, along with other contributors such as the Orting wrestling camps, who would donate funds towards the program. Not to mention any of the funds earned from the selling of license plates, and perhaps the gut check tournament as well. Which also begs the question, what is the amount actually contributed from Highline itself? That would be an interesting and key insight to this whole ordeal….? One instance stands out for me during all of this, and that is when a great amount of money was raised for Highline wrestling through a go fund me page, I have gone on to try and find but can't (anyone who could find it would be much appreciated).
But if I recall, funds around 50k were raised, which were great, and I remember thinking…”If they plan and use that money right, they could potentially set themselves up to be financially successful..” As in planning with an investment banker, or even a financial planner, creating a stand alone high earning wrestling account that the previous years funds would be entered into those multiplying (rule of 72), thus equaling a fully endowed program...etc. But, that following year Highline was back again...no money retained, expecting another hand out yet again. Yet I was left wondering perhaps like many others (and perhaps maybe that's why the second time on the go fund me left little for funds raised), was that where did all of the money go? As far as was the money spent on recruiting? Travel? The hiring of more coaches? Media? Advertisement?
No one knows, and not only that, there wasn't a return on the investment, and I just don’t mean performance based outcomes. I think what we wanted as a community were some answers as to where the program was going, the planning that was needed, a financial plan of some sort, and yes eventually success based on performanced based. But instead what we got were smoke and mirrors, that lead all the way to the top...being John Dunn. Now I won't try to go much into Dunn at this point in time, as I will talk about him in my next post. But I will mention this, Dunn was approached with the opportunity to establish a wrestling only account at Highline, instead of a general athletics account. That’s right...all athletics come from a single account, so you can’t directly where the money that was contributed for a specific team went. And when questioned about that, Dunn responded in not elaborating on what the amount for funds were available for wrestling, along with how they were distributed. Food for thought….
There has always been speculation on money going missing, and not necessarily at the hands of the coaches. But more or less at the gate keeper (Dunn). Including specific money contributions through private donors who gave money specifically to the wrestling program. Which like stated above would be lumped into a “general” athletic fund, or be put into a specific account. Which doesn't sound too alarming, that the head of the athletic department would be the one in charge of certain accounts...but all of them? And particularly, when an account is supposed to have x amount of dollars in it, but suddenly doesn't? Not trying oh so much to go down a rabbit hole discussing John Dunn, because that will come later...and that will be oh so juicy…..
As far as the financial state of Highline and Norton goes, I will let you decide where you think the fault lies. For all we know, Norton may have had little or no choice in the matters of Highline and Dunn having his fingers in all of the cooking jars. As far as we know, he might have just kept his head down and mouth shut, and doing his job. But one can only speculate so much, until you take a step back and a picture starts to take shape, and you can't believe what was in front of you the entire time. Red pill or the blue pill…..
The next installment about Norton, Highline, and the recruiting efforts to build and sustain a competitive program. In what many consider having a wrestling hotbed in your own backyard, and should be competing for a national championship on a yearly basis. Till next time….see you on the dark side of the moon.
display advertising space is available for bid. E-mail Dave
Gilbertson to make a bid. Best reasonable offer
gets the spot. Bid can be for a week or a month. This is
by bid process and totally subject to my discretion.