Gretchen Torline knows all, sees all

Sports Editor

Behind the success of Wichita State Athletics sits Gretchen Torline.

Almost every student athlete will say Torline and her staff were instrumental in their time at WSU, both on the court and in the classroom.

As director of Athletic Academic Services, Torline advises students in each athletic program.

The job description

There isn’t one. Gretchen Torline has worked at Wichita State for 24 years and said a job description cannot be put on what she and her counterparts do for the Athletic Department.

“It’s everything,” Torline said. “We don’t tell the student athletes what to do. We help them navigate the system, make sure that they know what they’re doing, get stuff done when they need to get it done.”

Torline said going to school and playing a sport at this level is a full-time job, plus overtime. She ensures student athletes take care of academics, stay eligible, be involved in the community and take part in things to better themselves in areas other than academics and athletics.

“Give them academic support is the No. 1 thing we do,” she said. “The best part of my job is watching my guys and gals graduate.”

Developing relationships

G-Money. Boo Boo. Olivia Pope.

The hit ABC series main character from “Scandal,” Olivia Pope and other nicknames are synonymous with Torline.

“She’s like Olivia Pope,” former player, P.J. Couisnard, said. “She knows everything. Everything that the players need or do, she runs everything.”

Randy Burns called her “Boo Boo,” Fridge Holman, “G-Money” and Torline called Couisnard “Prince Pierre” — his full name.

So, why the nicknames?

“I don’t know why,” Torline said. “I think it’s neat. I develop a relationship with them that way. They just always have nicknames.”

‘Icing on the cake’

In 2013, Torline told the Wichita Eagle’s Joanna Chadwick that the Final Four berth was “icing on the cake.” In a 2014 package by KWCH 12’s Lauren Seabrook, Torline again described the Shockers undefeated season as “icing on the cake.”

“That’s what I tell everybody,” Torline said. “Going to the Final Four was great … But my job is about them getting their degree and being successful academically. [Wins are] just a perk of my job.”

It makes it hard, though, to keep the athletes focused on classes, she said.

“If we go to the Final Four or go undefeated, that’s icing on the cake,” she said. “But watching them walk across the stage and hold their diploma, that’s the best thing.”

When they quit, she doesn’t

Torline has seen a few players leave WSU without graduating. It breaks her heart, she said.

Fridge Holman left with just a few hours left and didn’t graduate.

“When the Shockers came to New York City in the NIT championship,” Holman said, “she greeted me and hugged me at Madison Square Garden as if I was still a part of the program.”

Torline remembered the encounter at the NIT.

“He was living in New York and he called me and said he was going to be at the game,” Torline said. “It was the first time I’d seen him since he left. We sat and talked and I said ‘you know you have to come back to school.’ He wanted to coach at the time and he knew he needed the degree.”

Holman returned to Wichita State in 2011 and finished his degree.

When Jamar Howard left early, Torline said she was brokenhearted.

“When he left, I kept on him,” she said. “Any time I connected with him, I told him ‘You have to come back.’ When he came back, I knew he was looking for a job so I hooked him up with the job he has now.”

Howard said Torline and head coach Gregg Marshall were influential in getting him back in school and getting his degree last year.

“They figure it out after they leave and the say, ‘Oh, you were right,’” Torline said. “But, some of them have to go off and do their thing and then figure it out. It’s hard for me when they leave and don’t make it easy on themselves. Just suck it up. Finish it. I know you want to go on and play professionally and do other things, but finish.”