A GOOD DAY EVERY RACE
For the love of the sport, NCAA
assistant coaches pull their weight
beyond job titles BY C.J. FEEHAN
Aaron Haffey as a technician with the USST.
Like it or not, the salaries of NCAA coaches in revenue-heavy
sports frequently surpass those of business executives. With foot-
ball legend Urban Meyer signing a six-year, $24 million contract
to lead the Ohio State team, it’s refreshing to look at ski racing
coaches on the collegiate level.
Perhaps no position in NCAA skiing exemplifies the pure commit-
ment to sport as much as that of assistant coach. Johnny David-
son at the University of Vermont and Aaron Haffey at the Univer-
sity of Denver, in particular, have both redefined the potential for
the role of assistant coach in recent years to extend far beyond
the gate-wrenching course-slipper who shoots video.
When Johnny Davidson was named EISA Coach of the Year in
2011, he became the first assistant according to records — and
coaches’ memories — to ever receive such honors. “I was sur-
prised by the award not because I didn’t think I was worthy; I just
didn’t think assistants ever won,” he says. “I was surprised that
people recognized what I had been doing.” What he had been do-
ing was fulfilling the responsibilities of recruiting, scheduling, and
on-hill tasks at UVM while working closely with standout athletes
Tim Kelley, Kate Ryley and Jonathan Nordbotten.
Davidson began as the ski team manager at Vermont in 2006 and
2007 during his final year of undergraduate study before return-
ing the following fall as assistant coach. “My plan originally was to
coach until I received my M.B.A., but then I got addicted,” he says.
“Coaching is really fun because, as a racer, you have a good day
maybe once every month. But with coaching 10 athletes, some-
one is going to have a good day every race.”
Although Davidson has been offered head coaching jobs else-