This week in Duke history: Duke coach leaves after God tells him to

There have been quite a few unconventional reasons why head coaches at Duke have left their teams.

The reason for the 1984 gymnastics coach, however, may top the list. To boot, it was a prelude to the ending of his program just two weeks later.

On April 24, 1984, the Duke Athletic Council unanimously decided to terminate the women’s gymnastics program at Duke, instead creating the women’s indoor and outdoor track and cross country teams, which increased the number of women's sports at Duke to 10. Although they could not continue to play their sport, the gymnasts still received scholarships through graduation.

The decision caught many gymnasts off guard, according to a Chronicle article written that summer. 

Part of what led to the decision, though, was head coach Ken Miller’s decision to leave the team.

“God told me to,” he said. “It’s not that I want to leave, or that I am unhappy with the program…. My relationship with God is more important to me than anything. He’s asked me to leave, so I feel I must go.”

Miller had planned on studying pastoral counseling for a year at Westminster Theological Seminary, and he hoped he could come back in 1985. Clearly, that was not to be.

Among the other reasons for the cutting of gymnastics, then-director of athletics Tom Butters said that the sport was monopolizing the use of the Memorial Gymnasium in what is now the Brodie Recreation Center. He said it was inefficient for eight women to use the gym for 2-3 hours a day and that there were not enough funds for a permanent gymnastics facility.

Taking over the women’s track program? Mike Forbes, who is still plenty busy at Duke. Forbes oversees club sports at Duke and was recently quoted in the Chronicle.

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