By Suzannah Young
Nicholas Johnson’s appointment as head coach of the women’s rowing team at Barry ended abruptly at the start of February to the dismay and shock of his players.
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 6:32 p.m., women on the Barry University rowing team received a text message from Assistant Coach Emily Stasi in the team’s WhatsApp group chat.
The message read, “Hi guys, we will not be rowing tomorrow. We will be having a team meeting under the canopy at 8:30 a.m. The ENTIRE team is required to be there injured or not. If you have a class conflict, please let me know directly.”
That morning, the athletes were met by Stasi and Associate Athletic Director Amanda Knight who informed the women that Johnson would no longer be coaching, and that Stasi would lead the team as a stand-in for the remainder of the season.
Johnson was not in attendance at the meeting to inform the girls personally of his immediate departure.
“They just told us that Nick’s not coming back,” reported an anonymous source.
Bewildered by the news, the athletes received no information regarding details nor the reason for Johnson’s sudden departure mid-season.
Athletic Director Michael Covone made a written statement to The Buccaneer.
“Barry University will not comment on personnel matters, including the details surrounding Mr. Nicholas Johnson’s departure beyond sharing that he is no longer employed by the University as the Head Coach of the Women’s Rowing Team,” he wrote.
The athletic department did not specify whether Johnson was dismissed or stepped down on his own accord.
Covone further explained that the university is conducting a nationwide search for a new coach, but that in the meantime “Assistant Coach Emily Stasi has stepped in to assume additional responsibilities… [and] to, help ensure a smooth transition for all involved, Associate Athletic Director Amanda Knight has been providing added support to the program including attending practices and competitions.”
The athletes on the team were not given permission to be interviewed by The Buccaneer on this subject “given the ongoing case in HR,” according to Athletic Communications Director Dennis Jezek.
Johnson had occupied the head coach position for four years. In his first year at Barry, Johnson served as assistant coach in the 2016-2017 school year when he helped coach the team to a first-place finish at the Head of the Charles Collegiate 4+ event and third place in the Sunshine State Conference.
In his time as head coach beginning in 2017, Johnson held two SSC Coach of the Year awards, one SSC Boat of the Year award, one NCAA national regatta appearance, and multiple first place finishes for individual boats.
In the wake of Johnson’s departure, this school year, the team had a successful season opener with two first place finishes. This season, the team has been awarded two SSC Boat of the Week awards and placed first in multiple regattas, bouncing them up to the number one national ranking.
While the team is moving along with their season quite successfully with support from Barry’s athletic staff, the team is left to speculate on the reasons for their coach’s departure.
After the meeting in early February, “everyone had different ideas of what had happened,” said an anonymous source. “Everyone was saying that it couldn’t be his coaching, because he was doing so much better.”
The team is currently led by Stasi who began coaching at Barry last fall. Stasi was a Division I rower at the University of West Virginia from 2014-17 and has coached novice programs, although she has no prior collegiate coaching experience.
In light of recent events, however, the team seems to be thriving.
“Everyone is still on the team and we’re doing better…it was almost like when he left, there was a morale boost in a weird way,” the anonymous source said.