The View From Pluto: Ashland's 'Cinderella Basketball Disneyland' Begins A New Chapter
Ashland University has built a women's basketball dynasty. The Division II team has won two national titles in the past seven years. They won 73 games in a row until losing in the national title game last month. Now, the team's head coach is moving on. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks about what's next for the small school with a big program.
A basketball royal family
Pluto says Ashland has built a "basketball royal family." It began with Sue Ramsey who coached there for 20 years and led the team to a national title. Her assistant, Robyn Fralick, took over when Ramsey retired three years ago. "They went from being really good to record breaking. I’ve never seen anything like it, right in our backyard," Pluto says.
Fralick led the Eagles to a 104-3 record, winning the national title in 2016-17. They lost in this year's title game last month, snapping an unprecedented 73-game winning streak.
Pluto says Fralick has been courted by other schools for a couple years. Last year, she turned down Belmont College in Nashville. But this year, Bowling Green State University called, and she accepted. “This is who you get to revive your program,” Pluto says.
Fralick received a six-year contract at an annual salary of $231,000. She was making $80,000 a year at Ashland.
'They have this Cinderella basketball Disneyland'
A basketball Disneyland
Pluto says the culture and atmosphere at Ashland is unique. Fralick's husband was a volunteer, part-time assistant with the team. "They have two little kids and they would bring them to the gym, and you’re able to do that in Division II. It was almost like they have this Cinderella basketball Disneyland."
Pluto says the women's team sells out most every game. "They average 1,500 fans a game in a gym that holds 1,700. You go watch some of the MAC games, there are 300-400 people in a gym that holds 7,000."
Keeping it in the family
So, Pluto says Fralick's replacement was key. Ashland promoted assistant coach Kari Pickens, 27, who was a stand-out player under former coach Sue Ramsey. “She’s part of the royal family too,” Pluto says.
"The first thing [Pickens] did was get on the phone and make sure the kids they have are staying, and the recruits they have are staying," Pluto says.
As for Fralick, Pluto thinks she’ll do well at Bowling Green. “But I think they’ll be moments she’ll think it was a lot more fun at Ashland, because that’s how it is in the beginning.”