By Carleen Surrena @SURRENA_C and Valeria Mejia @VALMEJIA
There are 313 Division I college sports programs. According to the NCAA, 37 of them (11.8 percent) are run by women athletic directors. Some of those women are directors of only the women’s programs at their school.
It stands to reason the community college ranks are at best similar. Perhaps worse. That means Las Positas College was a rarity with a female athletic director, Dyan Miller, over the entire department. Not any more, for the time being.
Miller’s position remains listed on the LPC website. But three months ago, Miller left the school, frustrated and heartbroken, looking for a new start. She also vacated her post as Dean of Behavioral Sciences, Business and Athletics.
An email informed LPC faculty, classified staff and administrators that Miller had accepted a job at Pasadena City College as the Dean of Kinesiology, Health and Athletics and that she would begin on July 1.
The departure of Miller, who was with Las Positas College for seven years, was sudden and unannounced. It left two positions vacant and both departments struggling to fill the void. It also, perhaps, created a divide in the faculty and administration levels.
“Her managerial style was outstanding, and it worked well with the personalities of our athletic staff,” said men’s basketball coach James Giacomazzi, who was hired by Miller in Sept. 2015, and is serving as the interim athletic director. “We wish she could’ve stayed.”
According to others in the athletic department, Miller’s departure was prompted by dissatisfaction in her performance.
Minutes from the Nov. 17, 2015 Board of Trustees meeting detail the vocal concerns of former men’s soccer coach Lawrence Aguiar and faculty member Kerry Karter of the Kinesiology Department. Their complaints were that the athletic department suffered from a, “lack of transparency and shared governance, unprofessionalism, favoritism, retaliation and abuse of power.”
Aguiar is on record saying he would visit every board meeting until things changed within the department. Miller was also accused of harassment and discrimination.
The accusations prompted LPC President Barry Russell to launch a probe. An investigator was hired by the Chabot-Las Positas College District to examine the claims and the work environment under Miller.
Aguiar and Karter did not respond to interview requests made by The Express.
Jason Craighead, head coach of the LPC men’s and women’s swim teams, said Miller worked more hours than required and put in her own money to see programs succeed.
Craighead acknowledged he was aware some coaches felt poorly about the job Miller was doing. His conclusion was the dissenters were used to “doing what they wanted.” That practice changed under Miller.
He said their complaints stemmed from Miller holding them accountable, including cleaning the department violations of California Community College Athletic Association rules, policies and educational codes.
“Looking back on the situation, did Dyan come out of the gate too strong? Maybe, maybe not,” said Craighead, who worked at five other community colleges in his career. “Would a different approach have changed things? Maybe, maybe not. For me, I prefer a straightforward approach.”
Aguiar and Karter, the only two on record voicing their displeasure at Miller’s performance, continued their complaints at the Jan. 19, 2016 meeting. They said the investigation into their previous concerns did not go deep enough.
Russell declined numerous requests for a comment.
According to Mary Hargiss, Miller’s assistant in the athletic department, the investigation turned up no wrongdoing on Miller’s part. She claimed the investigation sided with Miller.
But the damage was done. Hargiss said Miller felt she was not getting the support she needed, being treated unfairly and made to feel untrustworthy.
“It was getting to her,” Hargiss said.
Hargiss said things have been hectic without a dean. Miller, who was also Dean of Physical Education, Health, and Athletic Director at Hartnell Community College, was hired in July 2009 to head the athletic department at Las Positas. She also had previous experience at Glendale Community College in southern California.
Her accomplishments at Las Positas include starting a swim and dive team and a water polo team on campus.
She also brought in numerous events to improve the funding of the program, including pushing for and winning a bid to host the men’s and women’s basketball community college state championships for 2016 and 2017.
“She let us do our jobs,” Giacomozzi said. “She didn’t micro-manage. When you had things to bring to her, she was supportive, guided us and helped lead us in the direction of the path we were trying to go down.”