Embattled coaching duo Jon and Melissa Bowerman, son and daughter-in-law of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, will be taking their talents to Madras this spring.
The Bowermans led Condon/Wheeler to a Class 1A girls state track championship last spring while Melissa, 41, was being dismissed by the schools’ administrations for taking a student to the Condon prom in April. They will serve as voluntary coaches on the four-coach staff for the White Buffaloes.
“Obviously they have a proven track record to say the least,” first-year Madras Athletic Director Rory Oster said. “I think that our track program has been declining over the past few years and my goal is to get more kids out and participating. I think Jon and Melissa are the perfect people to help us there.
“They’re two individuals who have shown success at places they’ve been before. They’re professionals with a huge passion.”
Following Melissa’s dismissal from the Knights last spring, where she held a voluntary assistant position, Jon Bowerman’s head-coaching contract was not renewed. After re-applying in the fall for the open position at the co-op between Condon High School and Wheeler High School in Fossil, he turned down the job upon being informed that his wife was forbidden to return as an assistant.
Coaching for Madras would allow the couple to continue their work as a team.
“We both bring two different strengths to the program and one without the other, we wouldn’t have had the success that we wanted,” said Jon Bowerman, 74.
The Bowermans will not hold salaried positions this season with Madras, a school of more than 700 students whose track teams hardly outnumbered the much smaller Condon/Wheeler squad last season. In four seasons with Condon/Wheeler, track turnout ballooned from six student athletes to more than 30 boys and girls. The Buffaloes’ numbers were just below 40 for 2012.
Oster said the school hopes to add to its two paid positions in the future.
The Madras school district passed a $26.6-million bond last May to help fund a performing arts center and athletic facility expansion. That will include a new stadium, complete with football field, track, field event pits and bleachers, that is tentatively planned for completion in spring of 2014.
During the Bowermans’ tenure at Condon/Wheeler, the couple was influential in obtaining a similar state-of-the-art track for Condon High, which was dedicated just weeks after the school’s spring-time prom last year.
The couple lives nearly between Condon and Madras, on a ranch home south of Fossil. The fact that both schools are about an hour’s drive away played a large role in the decision, Jon Bowerman said. After fielding interest from a handful of schools from across the country, some as far away as Vermont and Ohio with others closer to home in Idaho and Utah, the Bowermans made their decision to stay semi-local.
But only after all attempts to return to Condon/Wheeler were exhausted, Melissa Bowerman said.
“Those kids by now know that no matter where we coach, no matter where we go, … we still care about them the same and we’ll still help them the same if they need us,” she said. “Even though that was one of the things that got us in trouble at Condon/Wheeler.”
Last May, Melissa Bowerman told the East Oregonian the student she escorted to the prom had been struggling with his academics and feeling down because he had no prom date. Bowerman said one of her goals was to know each team member as an individual and to help them academically as well as athletically. She said she agreed to go with the boy if he raised his grade in English class.
An investigation conducted by Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt, who had received a complaint from a prom chaperone that an individual over 21 years old had attended the dance, found no evidence that Melissa Bowerman broke a law or had any criminal intentions.
Condon/Wheeler head football coach Larry Conaway will fill the coaching vacancy atop the track program this spring according to Jan Zarate, Condon school district superintendent and athletic director. Conaway has previously served as an assistant coach for the Knights.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.