Q&A: Bowling Green's Garry Galley
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Garry Galley is one of the most prominent Bowling Green hockey alumni, a member of its Hall of Fame, and has been outspoken in trying to prevent the university from cutting the program — as is being discussed now, as a way to save money.
Galley was a member of the 1984 NCAA championship team, that was coached by Jerry York. The coaching list at BGSU also includes Ron Mason, the all-time winningest NCAA coach. And four alums are current Division I coaches — George Roll (Clarkson), Wayne Wilson (RIT), John Markell (Ohio State) and Scott Paluch (Bowling Green). There are also numerous alums working as assistants, and coaches in D-III and junior hockey.
Galley went on to play 17 years in the National Hockey League. He is currently coaching the Nepean Raiders, and has done work for CBC in Canada as a hockey analyst.
Among the other hockey alumni are former Hobey Baker Award winners George McPhee and Bryan Holzinger. Dan Bylsma just was named head coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ken Morrow, Nelson Emerson and Dave Ellett are some of the other big NHL names. Figure skater Scott Hamilton is an alum.
Years ago, Galley and other prominent — and not so prominent — alumni got together to help raise money for renovations to part of Ice Arena beneath the rink. But a recent planned overhaul to the arena itself has been scrapped.
Galley: It's a call for cash. You can slice it any way you like, but it will come down on the laps of alumni. If we are willing, the program can survive. If not, we take the risk of the program disintegrating.
CHN: Is that what they said?
Galley: No, but the reality of it is, it was on the chopping block — from what I understand — in the last budget meeting a year ago. So they've known over a year. The program barely made it through the year before. I'm not privy to all the info, but I've had a chat with (athletic director) Greg Christopher and he's been very up front. He said, "I don't know if the program will get through this budget." And that's plain and simply. So if not, how will it survive? Only if the alumni step up.
CHN: Will they even give you that option?
Galley: I don't know. But at the end of the day, if the alumni raise $2-3 million, what are they going to do? It speaks volumes. ... (If the administration doesn't take that), it would speak even more volumes.
I was involved the last time the program required financial help. It's a program dear to our hearts and we gave. And it had very little effect (compared to what) they thought it would. So at the end of the day, when they came to us and asked to do it again, a lot of us took pause. We thought, "When is the university going to kick in here to a program that's basically been running on its own since 1984?" I've talked to people who know the ins and outs of the budget. They won't say anything (publicly), but they'll tell you that (the program has) been left alone to basically run on its own. And it's just not working.
As an alum, we say, can the university show that it cares? We see additions in the football field going in — which is beautiful — but that's a program that I'm sure is losing money. Basketball got a huge donor there (for a new arena, the Stroh Center), but the university is kicking in (a portion).
CHN: So the feeling is, if the university shows it cares, there is support there to get it turned around, and you guys will help. Has there been an official effort to get you guys involved?
Galley: They came to us with an initiative to try to fix the arena. ... We were told, no new arena. So that was a bit discouraging since there are programs that have done that and really gotten going — Miami for example. We all understood that money wasn't going to go for a new rink, but there was money for the old rink that needed to be done. But because they've ignored it for so long and never took care of it, the alums were taken aback a bit.
Last time, we raised money for coaches' offices and room for meetings, a weight room. No problem. But this time around, they didn't get the same response they were hoping for. We wanted to see (the university) step up.
CHN: Do you get a sense of where this is going?
It's a tough pill to swallow. My daughter goes to school there. My son was offered a scholarship to play there in a couple years. When the rumors and stuff start about a school like this, it does irreparable damage. For kids coming in, any player of quality, it's a red flag. That's where the damage gets done.
I didn't want to see this out there because of the damage. So I went to them. I was expecting to hear, "Garry, it's just a bunch of rumors, there's nothing to them." But the answer was, "This is very real." That's when you have to say something.
I started hearing about it two months ago, when people in the industry, recruiters — I coach a junior team here — came up to me. I started hearing from them. I thought, "No way." Look at the quality of things that have come out of the arena. There's a disconnect there with the community, faculty and students to the hockey program. It can be reconnected, but there has been no plan to help.
CHN: Is there a time frame in place on when you expect to hear?
Galley: Greg Christopher has been honest. He said he'd let us know as soon as he can. All we can hope is we'll get an opportunity to come to the table and figure out a game plan before they put the ax through it. If they do (come to us), we'll find out what it takes to keep the program alive. It comes down to tough economic times. People lose their jobs in these economic times. We certainly realize the tough position they're in.
CHN: Is it Greg Christopher's decision?
Galley: I don't think it's his decision, but he has a responsibility to the school itself. So he has to make the decisions that he has to make. Our responsibility for those who have supported the program with our heart and soul, is to not let them to do this and to find another way.
But we don't want to come forward and do all this, and all of a sudden, two years from now, the program is gone anyway. That was the issue. Paving the parking lot, putting paint onto building — that is not going to help you recruit kids. The program is what helps you recruit kids. More funds to help recruit and aid your team, then that really is the crux of how a program will get better. And use the people around them to network.
CHN: There are rumors that alumni would be more willing to help if Scott Paluch was fired. Do you want to put that to rest?
Galley: I don't think that's accurate. There needs to be changes in that program. I'm not saying fire a coach, but a change in where the program is going, and show that people are behind it with a clear plan. It hasn't been good for a period of time. From the coaching staff right on down, everything has to be looked at. If there's a way to do it better, you do it better. There are alums out there right now, NHL GMs, coaches in the NHL, guys in junior. There's so much to draw from here.
Scott Paluch is trying to build a program to win. I've not heard one alum say that's not the case. But when things aren't going well, there's always changes. And there has to be something to get adrenaline into the program, to reconnect. I can't say that lightly, but it happens in all walks of life. That's something that happens, and Scott realizes that's a potential hazard. That's the nature of the beast, people will always second guess.
That's not a personal thing. There's not one guy that doesn't appreciate Scott Paluch. As a player that played there, as a person who cares as much as any of us, there's no doubt in any of our minds.
CHN: So the big fear is whether they will even give you the opportunity to help with a solution, or just call you in a week or so and say it's been cut without ever being given the chance. Is there any sense where this is going?
Galley: We're angry this thing is even on the table, and hoping somehow there is a better solution. I have to put faith in the fact that the people in power look at a program that has developed so much and brought so much joy to so many people, and will continue to if it's nursed. When I went to school there, I was taught to never give up. To give up on this program is very short sighted.
Being president of a university in hard economic times is not an easy job to have. But we also want to see a school that has passion. That's what the alumni are looking for. If they felt it was there, there would be help. But I don't know if they've got the stomach to say we'll stick with this.