It was an unfamiliar position for Bryan Raschilla to be in. For just the third time in his 22-year career at Alabama, the gymnastics associate head coach sat in the stands during the NCAA Championships’ Super Six competition about two weeks ago. The Crimson Tide did not advance, finishing the season eighth overall.
That day, April 21, head coach Dana Duckworth sent Raschilla a text.
“… Thank you for being more attentive (than) you ever have been since I’ve worked with you the last month,” it read. “It did not go unnoticed. I’m stepping back and processing. I know watching tonight hurts but will bring clarity and growth with the right mindset.”
On Saturday, UCLA won the national title. Sunday, Alabama traveled home. Monday, coaches returned to work.
Raschilla showed up early, like the morning person he is, and went over notes. Eventually needing a coffee break, he asked Duckworth if she would also like a cup. She didn’t.
Instead, The Tuscaloosa News has learned, Duckworth then told Raschilla she wasn’t renewing his contract. He had a $130,858.80 annual salary, according to information obtained from UA.
“There was an initial shock,” Raschilla said. “I’m not going to lie about that. A little scratching your head and going OK, did that just happen? And it did.
“Bottom line, it’s like when you cut the grass. You can’t uncut it.”
That was that. About 48 hours after the text.
Raschilla said he wasn’t given an explanation.
“My decision was based on a continual assessment of this program,” Duckworth said Wednesday in a statement, “and was made in the best interest of its ongoing success.”
Another statement said: “We are thankful for all Bryan’s contributions to our program and his many years of service and wish him all the best going forward.”
No clauses in Raschilla’s contract were broken.
While the news wasn’t made public, it spread among the Alabama gymnastics family. Both current and former gymnasts reached out to Raschilla and sent messages of love and encouragement. No one was happy.
Ashley Miles Greig, who competed at Alabama from 2003-06, called Raschilla the heart of the team.
“You always know where you stand with Bryan, and that’s for sure,” she said. “That’s one of the things that I most respect and admire about him, is that he lets you know what expects in a very thoughtful and meaningful way. Always lessons. Always encouraging. Always there when you need that extra push. Or just someone to talk to.”
Like the text said: attentive.
This has been a practice-what-you-preach experience for Raschilla. He always told his gymnasts and children – his daughter and son were both born and raised in Tuscaloosa – what’s done is done and what’s next is more important. Raschilla knows he’s going to keep coaching because it’s his passion, so that’s his focus now.
Besides, he’s good at it.
Between his 22 years at Alabama and two at Michigan, Raschilla has coached as an assistant on three national title-winning teams and saw 14 top-three finishes. He has won six SEC titles and two Big Ten titles. He has never had a season not end at the NCAA Championships.
At Alabama alone, Raschilla’s memory will loom around just about every corner in Coleman Coliseum. Not only is the Crimson Tide’s success literally written on the walls, but Raschilla made many of the graphics posted around the building. He even designed the gymnastics practice facility.
“We’re all moving forward,” Raschilla said. “Just not together.”
And that’s OK.
“I’d rather celebrate the memories and the good things than be angry and bitter about the what ifs and why me,” Raschilla said. “I have no place in my life for those kinds of things.”
He chooses to look at the bright side. These past 10 days, Raschilla has actually been excited about the future even though he has no idea what’s next. Whatever it is, he’s ready and certain his career is not over.
Because really, it’s not the end of the world.
Just like it wasn’t the end of the world when Alabama didn’t make Super Six.
“The sun came up today,” the text opened.