Matt Miles, head baseball coach for Oregon Institute of Technology, was given a letter two weeks ago stating his contract is “nonrenewed without cause” after 13 years leading the Hustlin’ Owls.
The decision left many of Miles’s players upset, and one of them, Alex Malcolm, began a petition of support for Coach Miles which he said he also hopes might generate enough attention to make the higher-ups reconsider. The petition has passed its initial 500 signature goal and, as of Thursday afternoon, has over 700 signatures and testimonies of Miles’s decade as a coach.
Malcolm said that part of him is surprised by the number of signatures his petition has garnered, but that another part of him isn’t surprised due to the respect the team harbors for Miles.
“A lot of us, we look up to Coach Miles,” Malcolm said. “His fight, his motivation is motivation for the team.”
Miles said he’s inspired by all of the support he’s received, but also has to keep his sights on his and his family’s future while he looks for a new way to support his family and take care of his health as he has been battling terminal brain cancer since 2017.
“The one thing that really bothers me is, nobody’s going to answer an application from a coach with terminal brain cancer. I mean how do you hire a guy when you’re supposed to be dead three years ago anyways?” Miles said. “But I’ll figure it out. I’ll figure some way to continue to work with people and find a way to take care of my family. Somehow, some way.”
The way that Miles beat the odds the doctors gave him when he was diagnosed with cancer and told he only had three months to live was an inspiration for Malcolm.
“What really comes to me is Coach Miles’s work ethic and his will to win, but also his will to survive, and him battling stage four gliosarcoma brain cancer, you know, it motivates me,” Malcolm said.
Miles sent a text in his team’s group message letting the players know he will no longer be their coach.
“I just let them know that, ‘hey I just want to let you know that the president just let me go and that you guys are still Owls, you guys are still great students, you’re still at the best college on the west coast and you’re still playing the game you love. So stay strong and keep working and stay at it because I’ll be watching, I’ll miss y’all,’” Miles told the H&N.
The next day, Malcolm said the athletic director told the team, too. He said he and the other players were blindsided by the news and the team expressed their feelings of the firing being an “injustice.”
“I was definitely caught off guard. A complete blindside is how I would describe it,” Malcolm said. “We felt — and a lot of other players on the team — we felt like this was kind of an injustice. We felt like it was not the right thing to do. Not only is it bad for Coach Miles, but it’s also bad for the baseball team.”
He said that while he hopes his petition might be enough to provoke a change of heart from the athletic department and university leadership, he was also motivated to start the petition as a public display of support for his coach.
Oregon Tech and Oregon Tech Athletics had no comment beyond a May 22 press release in which Athletic Director John Van Dyke said, “A decision has been made to move in a new direction with our baseball program. We sincerely thank Coach Miles for his service and dedication to the student-athletes that have been part of his program during his 13-year tenure here at Oregon Tech.”
Miles’s wife, Beverly, called her husband’s firing and the lack of a reason given by leadership “disrespectful.”
“It shows a lack of integrity on Tech’s part,” she said.
She said that the commitment Miles made to students he recruited to play baseball for Tech kept him going and fueled his fight to beat the cancer so that he could fulfill his promises as a coach to the players.
Beverly said seeing the petition on his behalf and the testimonials signers wrote “makes the sting less painful.”
She said she’d love to see her husband reinstated as Tech’s baseball coach, but isn’t sure that could happen.
“I would like to see change,” she said. “I would like to see him do what he loves to do.”
In the meantime, Beverly said her husband is continuing to be positive as he always is in an effort to remain healthy and look to the future to provide for their family and his own medical expenses.
“He’s definitely still the same positive guy who plans to keep fighting this,” she described.
No matter what happens next, Miles said he’s glad to have had the chance to lead the team for over a decade and coach so many student athletes.
“The one thing, three and a half years ago they said you have two to three months to live, and I said let me get back with my players, it’s what I enjoy in life,” he said. “So I’ll never forget the enjoyment I had of coaching such great young men and the knowledge of knowing I had a positive effect to some degree means a lot to me.”
“I’m proud of them all. To the day that I can’t remember anymore, that will always be a big part of my memory of the happiness in my life.”
Many of the petition signers left messages about why they signed.
“It does inspire me how many players, how many guys, how many people are upset and trying to do things for someone they care about and that makes me feel good in a tough situation,” Miles said.