(WNDU) - In less than two weeks at Super Bowl 54, Goshen College graduate and San Francisco 49ers assistant Katie Sowers will become the first woman and first openly gay person to coach in the big game.
But her time at Goshen College came with some controversy.
Sowers did it all at Goshen College from 2006 to 2009. She competed in soccer, track and field, and was a team captain on the basketball team.
But when her playing eligibility ran out, she asked the head basketball coach if she could volunteer to coach the basketball team.
Sowers said in an interview a few months back that his answer was quite surprising.
"I thought it would be natural to ask if I could be a volunteer assistant coach, and my coach called me in and said they have a lot of parents that have been worried about their daughter being around someone who is gay, and he said we got rid of all of that," Sowers said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "That's not something they would want around the team. So, he asked that I would not be around the team anymore.
"He gave me a hug and said, 'It's nothing personal,' and I remember hugging him but being extremely upset. It was something that I grieved about for a while, but I decided I had to move on."
On Wednesday, Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus released a statement on Sowers and school policies.
"Sadly, in 2009, our policies and the laws of Indiana allowed for hiring decisions to consider sexual orientation," the statement from Stoltzfus says, in part. "I am glad that Goshen College adopted a new non-discrimination policy in 2015, and I am thankful for the leaders before me who brought this change about, not the least of whom were our students and alumni."
Stoltzfus went on to say the way Goshen College treated Sowers was hurtful and wrong and offered her profound apologies to Sowers.
Full statement from Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus
We are very proud of all that our alumna Katie Sowers '09, an assistant coach for the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers, has achieved in her life and the ways that she leads on and off the football field with authenticity, grace and excellence. She has publicly shared her journey to coaching, including the barriers she faced related to her sexual orientation when seeking a volunteer coaching position at Goshen College. Sadly, in 2009, our policies and the laws of Indiana allowed for hiring decisions to consider sexual orientation. I am glad that Goshen College adopted a new non-discrimination policy in 2015, and I am thankful for the leaders before me who brought this change about, not the least of whom were our students and alumni.
Our new vision states: “Being rooted in the way of Jesus, we will seek inclusive community and transformative justice in all that we do.” While we cannot go back and change history, justice calls us to stand up now and say that the way Goshen College treated Katie’s offer to coach was hurtful and wrong. I express on behalf of the institution our profound apologies to Katie Sowers and to all others who have not been welcomed here, simply because of who they are. And I want to personally thank all of our students, employees and alumni who call us to be and do better.