Following the dismissal of longtime head fencing coach Henry Harutunian in March, the positions of head coach and assistant coaches remain in limbo.
In a meeting March 29, Director of Athletics Vicky Chun informed members of the fencing teams that the process to find a new coach will be completed over the next few weeks and that the incoming coach will decide whether to renew the assistant coaches’ contracts, according to a current Yale fencer present at the meeting, who wished to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the issue, and fencing alumna Valerie Asher ’82 MED ’90, who talked to a student also present at the meeting.
According to the anonymous student, Chun also told the team members that though they can make suggestions for potential coach candidates, they are not permitted to sit in on interviews or deliberations. When asked to confirm these statements, Chun stated in an email to the News that the Athletic Department will consult “as appropriate” with a range of people, including students, to inform its search.
“We are excited to review the pool of applicants and expect exceptional candidates passionate about the opportunity to lead Yale Fencing into the future,” Chun’s email read.
In an interview with the News last week, Harutunian, who had planned to retire after his 50th year of coaching, said that he had hoped that current assistant coach Haibin Wang would replace him. A two-time Olympic medalist and former head coach of China’s national team, Wang signed a three-year contract with Yale in November 2016 after meeting with Harutunian and volunteering extensively with the team.
Wang declined to comment on Harutunian’s departure. According to Chun, both Wang and assistant coach Michael Kim have “the opportunity to apply” for the position of head coach even as the Athletic Department conducts a national search.
On April 3, Yale posted a job opening for the head coach position, asking for candidates with a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of collegiate coaching experience.
More than a week after Harutunian’s dismissal, Yale fencing alumni are still reeling from the Athletic Department’s decision. At least four alumni wrote directly to University President Peter Salovey to voice their complaints about Harutunian’s dismissal.
“How does this look in the face of scandals currently being faced on other fronts by Yale, Harvard, USC and other schools?” fencing alum Walter Klein ’83 wrote an email to Salovey posted on the Yale Fencing Association’s Facebook page. “How has this tarnished Coach Harutunian’s reputation and legacy?
Back in March, the Yale fencing program achieved seventh place at the NCAA national championships — its best finish in 17 years.
Valerie Pavilonis | firstname.lastname@example.org