Goodrich's competitive nature has elevated WWU Athletics to new heights during her 26-year tenure

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 12, 2013 

Former Western Washington University Director of Athletics Lynda Goodrich, left, embraces women’s basketball coach Carmen Dolfo. Goodrich, who coached the WWU women’s basketball team for 19 years, announced her retirement as AD last week after 26 years.

Lynda Goodrich has always been a competitor.

From the time Dr. G. Robert Ross hired her to lead the Vikings' athletic program 26 years ago to when Goodrich's retirement was announced Monday, May 6, she's aimed to make Western Athletics a powerhouse while placing an emphasis on academic excellence.

During the 23 years WWU associate athletic director Steve Card has worked as one of Goodrich's closest colleagues, he's witnessed her drive to compete on a daily basis.

"One thing about Lynda is that she is very competitive," Card said in a phone interview. "She enjoys winning. She did that as a coach, and she's certainly instilled that into all of us head coaches. She's said, 'If we're going to field a team, we're going to be competitive. We're not just going to have them out there.'"

That passion to be the best dates back to Goodrich's childhood, when she competed against her older brother Terry Goodrich, shooting basketballs through a hoop made from a the rim of a barrel nailed to the side of a barn on the family farm in Lake Stevens.

Goodrich competed on the basketball court at Lake Stevens High in games called "play days," as girls weren't given the same sports privileges as boys, though Goodrich would later play a role in changing that.

She was competitive as ever wearing No. 24 in field hockey, basketball and track and field at Western Washington University in the 1960s, long before athletic scholarships were available to women.

Goodrich's desire to push limits wasn't confined to athletic competition. She's been a staunch advocate for equality in women's athletics, too.

During her five-year teaching career at West Seattle High School, Goodrich served as adviser for the Girls Athletic Association. She and others lobbied for girls' organized sports. New sports were soon added. Goodrich coached the high school girls' basketball team, earned a 42-3 record and won three Metro League Championships.

When Goodrich was hired as the WWU women's basketball coach in 1971, she put ultra-competitive teams on the court for 19 seasons, posting a career record of 411-125 with 13 20-win campaigns.

And Goodrich has certainly competed throughout her 26-year tenure as Director of Athletics. She's leaving Western as one of the top Division II athletic programs in the country.

"She is an icon," Card said. "She's built the program to what it is today. She's put WWU on the map."

Goodrich has been awarded too many accolades to name. Most notably, she's guided Western to nine national titles - seven in rowing, one in men's basketball and one in NAIA softball - has helped the Vikings claim soon-to-be five straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Sports championships and has been selected to five Halls of Fame.

She's raised funds through an annual drive, auctions and golf tournaments to construct a strength and fitness center, make a softball-field upgrade and generate monies to add numerous scholarships that have allowed Western to attract top athletes. WWU has added softball, women's golf and indoor track and field as varsity sports under Goodrich's watch, and she's helped construct an effective marketing plan to help the university set attendance records in all sports.

Goodrich gave two primary reasons for her ability to generate scholarships.

"The primary gender equity tuition waiver that happened in 1989, and I was involved in legislative work to make that happen," Goodrich gave as the first reason. "We also embarked on an aggressive fundraising campaign. You have to raise non-state dollars for scholarships. All that took time. It didn't happen overnight."

Western Athletics was a shell of what it is now when Goodrich began coaching women's basketball in 1971, pre-Title IX. She still remembers when her season budget was a measly $700.

"We used to play two games in one day so we could get enough games in, and we had to play in the morning and in the afternoon, because the men played at night," Goodrich said. "When we traveled, we would stay in families' homes. They'd take us in, and we would go sleep on the floor in our sleeping bags."

Athletics at Western has been transformed since, and Goodrich has been the keystone piece in the change.

Goodrich's impact extends beyond helping Western transition from an NAIA program to a NCAA Division II school or helping the Vikings develop a foundational presence in the Bellingham community.

She's been a role model for players she's coached and a mentor to her colleagues.

"I was really lucky to take over such a good program," WWU women's basketball coach Carmen Dolfo said in a phone interview. "She's never stepping on my toes. She let's me be me and supports me in any way. She's allowed me to do more things and has given me more freedom. She supports us, and she's been a major factor in my career while I've been at the school."

Former All-American WWU women's basketball player Jo Metzger-Levin is a textbook example of someone who's followed in Goodrich's footsteps. Metzger-Levin played under her mentor for four seasons during the late 1970s and early 80s. She's enjoyed a physical education teaching career at Everett High School and had a stint as the school's athletic director.

"I think if you look at the foundation she laid when we were in college and beyond, it was the time for women," Metzger-Levin said in a phone interview. "We really were the pioneers, and she was a great role model for women to come out in the world. I had the opportunity to be an athletics coordinator. It's different in high school and in college. We were both given opportunities, and the foundation has been laid to keep women in those positions."

Few women in top administrative positions exist even today. Goodrich admitted Ross took a chance on her when she was hired as Director of Athletics.

Interestingly, taking chances on others has been a signature of Goodrich's tenure.

Men's basketball coach Tony Dominguez, volleyball coach Diane Flick, men's golf coach Steve Card, women's golf coach Bo Stephan, track and field and cross country coach Pee Wee Halsell, former longtime football coach Rob Smith and Dolfo all have something in common. None had prior head coaching experience at the high school or collegiate level before Goodrich hired them. All have enjoyed and have had sustained success in their respective sports.

"I think she has the unique ability to read people," Card said of Goodrich. "When she interviews people, she is looking into their soul. Being a Hall of Fame coach herself, she knows those characteristics. She sees in them the X's and O's, ability to recruit and someone who shares the same vision she has for the program."

Card, who was hired as associate AD at age 24, said he's always been grateful Goodrich gave him his opportunity. Outside of accomplishments and accolades, Goodrich is a joy to work for, Card said.

"I have been here for 23 years," he stated. "I've stayed at WWU because of my relationship with her. Who you work for is an important part of your career. She was a wonderful person to work for. She gave me all the responsibility and authority I could handle."

While Goodrich has accomplished plenty during her more than quarter century at the helm of WWU Athletics, she's also dealt with obstacles such as Western dropping its tennis and football programs.

"I think when you go through 20-some years, you're going to have decisions and program decisions and budget decisions that have to be made," Goodrich said. "I think for me personally, I've tried to gather as much information as I can, take the opportunity to understand the impact, and once the decision is made, you look forward. You can't look back."

Goodrich's lasting legacy will be her battling for gender equity, transforming Western from a little-known program to a Division II nationally revered one and an athletics department, spearheaded by Goodrich, that constantly fought to make improvements and be the best.

"I think the legacy for me is that she has established at our institution the importance of a quality athletic program and what that means for the institution as a whole," Card said. "Our athletic program is now being utilized in ways it hasn't been in the past. She's elevated our program to where it is, and it's had a significant impact on the institution as a whole."

Goodrich's four decade-long chapter at Western has come to a near close but not a complete one. She will stay with Western Athletics as a part-time fundraiser, something she does best.

"I've worked with some great people," Goodrich said. "I feel very fortunate and blessed. I had the opportunity to be at Western from Margaret Aitken, who hired me as a rookie faculty member. To know Bruce Shepard, Eileen Coughlan, Karen Morse and G. Robert Ross, I have been really blessed, and I'd be remiss if I didn't thank them publicly."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang @bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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