School cannot bring her back as girls' basketball coach due to state ruling
Cheryl Land spent Wednesday morning on a hot air balloon in Napa Valley, California reflecting on recent events and contemplating what’s next.
The now-former Eastern York girls’ basketball coach stepped down last week after issues arose that put her teacher’s pension in jeopardy. Land had spent the last 25 years as an English teacher at Central York High School and planned to retire Sept. 2, and after that would focus solely on coaching in the winter.
However, Land, along with Eastern York Athletic Director Don Knaub, were thrown a curveball when she was informed about two stipulations in the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System retirement code that prevented her from coaching immediately following her retirement.
PSERS requires that there be a 90-day break from when the person retires to when they start coaching and they are not allowed have a “prearranged agreement.” Land was told she would violate those because the basketball season starts prior to that 90-day break period and since she had indicated to Eastern she would return to coach next season that constituted a “prearranged agreement,” Land said.
“I was shocked,” Land said. “Who knew? I didn’t and I feel like I did due diligence. I pride myself in knowing what I’m doing and crossing my T’s and dotting my I’s. This one came out of nowhere.”
Now for Eastern, and Land, the future is up in the air.
The Golden Knights have already put out an anticipated job opening and they want to try to fill the position quickly. They are hoping to have someone to present to the school board at the August meeting, Knaub said.
“Obviously the timing of this is not very good, but we’re forced in this situation,” Knaub said. “Having said that we’re not going to rush through the hiring process, because I want to hire the best possible person in that position moving forward. When you rush through the process you might miss something and I don’t want to miss anything.”
Ideally in a situation like this an assistant coach would take the helm, but in Eastern’s case it isn’t that simple. The program's junior varsity coach left after last season and the new JV coach is coming up from the middle school, so Knaub doesn’t want to put them into a situation they’re not fully familiar with.
And any thought of hiring an interim coach and having Land return to coach at Eastern would not work since that would violate the “prearranged agreement” clause.
“As far as hiring an interim coach and bringing her back in a year, no that’s not an option,” Knaub said. “It’s my understanding…that would be a violation and that would be a prearranged agreement. We’re going to hire a coach and put them in place for however long they stay.”
Land said that Eastern had been “so supportive” through the whole situation and that her decision to leave had nothing to do with the school. She called it a retirement code issue.
And her decision to step was a tough one for Land to make.
“I had four great years at Eastern. They treated me well,” Land said. “We shed some tears this past couple weeks because I have a great group of girls and parents there who were really looking forward to a really successful season.
“I had to tell them and it was very difficult to break their hearts and my heart is breaking because this is something I wanted. Nor is it something Eastern wanted.”
Land, who went 48-47 and won two Division III titles during her four-year tenure, said she still feels like she has more time to give as a coach. She will take the year off and then evaluate her options after that.
“I think I just need to take this year and reflect,” Land said. “We’ll see where life is going to take me. I believe with every experience, whether it’s negative or positive, new doors will open. That’s what I tell my students and my players.
“Don’t get hung up on the opposition and the adversarial issue… I have to practice what I preach.”
Land said she would be willing to provide any assistance that she could when a new coach is hired so that the transition goes smoothly. She also said she wishes the girls well this season and will likely take in a few games.
Though that first game back will be an emotional one for Land.
“I’ll make it through it,” Land said. “Life is good and life will continue, and opportunities will knock I hope. Let’s make sure our girls from Eastern have a great year next year… I’m feeling pretty good for them.”