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Bowling

After Affair With Athlete, Assistant Bowling Coach And Husband Of Head Coach Is Now Neither

10:01 AM EDT on June 21, 2023

WICKLIFFE, OH - APRIL 13: The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks take on the Vanderbilt Commodores during the Division I Women's Bowling Championship held at Rollhouse Wickliffe on April 13, 2019 in Wickliffe, Ohio. (Photo by Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Transparency and candor are typically admirable things in an all-too-disingenuous world, but there surely must have been a moment when it occurred to Steve Lemke that explaining his current predicament to a reporter was a spectacularly daft idea.

Lemke, the now-former assistant bowling coach (for what, spare conversion?) at Stephen F. Austin University, chose to resign rather than be fired this spring after head coach Amber Lemke discovered that he had been having an affair with one of the bowlers. Yes, Steve is also Amber's husband. Well, was; she has since filed for divorce.

This is according to an article published in the Lufkin (Texas) Daily News under the headline "Spare relationship causes awkward split," a headline every bit as brilliant as the old New York Post classic, "Headless Body In Topless Bar." The story would probably end there, but Forthright Steve decided to share his side with a reporter and give these quotes, in which he cops to the affair and then defends it where everyone can see with a measure of brass you cannot help but gawk at.

In defending himself, in and of itself a bold play, Steve Lemke said the story was “amplified to the magnitude that it is now because of the national championship caliber that we’ve developed.” In other words, he believes this wouldn't be a big deal if not for the fact that SFA is a bowling powerhouse, with two NCAA championships and two second-place finishes since 2015. Let your mind play with that logic for a moment—the nature of the relationship wouldn't be quite so noteworthy if the Ladyjacks weren't kicking all sorts of Southland Conference arse. There are only 39 schools in the country which have women's bowling as a D1 sport, if that matters to Steve’s argument.

The paper notes that Lemke and the bowler are consenting adults—anyway, as much as can be the case with power dynamics like these—so while it's not legally actionable, the level of ooze is still entirely too high. But his explanation is a masterwork in jaw-slackening logic, as though the NCAA's lack of jurisdiction on such things is the biggest worry he has.

“I knew it was kind of a no-no, but there’s not a rule saying it can’t happen,” Steve Lemke said. “There’s not a law saying I’m going to go to jail for doing something like this. There’s nothing in stone. I guess it’s just an ethics code, like we frown upon it, but there’s no rule, there’s no law broken.”

Even Lemke's acknowledgement of how the affair was discovered by his wife—with a text on his phone—isn't as good as his explanation.

“It didn’t have anything in detail,” he said. “It was just about how amazing I am, basically, in general perspective. Amber saw that and questioned me, and I got to the point where it just built up so much that I basically told her the truth after she dug through my phone.” 

But in making sure we all understand that he was the victim in all this, he did take pains to point out that his burden was beyond the levels of normal human endurance.

“I was the stay-at-home dad for five years with the kids while Amber got to go off and coach the team, and when she’d get back, I’d run practices on top of taking care of the kids while she was back,” Steve Lemke said. “When they’d travel again, I would sit back and take care of the kids. Then when I got hired on, she almost forced me to run practices. I was a volunteer the entire time before that trying to help out Amber. Once I got hired on, one thing stemmed from another. I felt like I was doing too much for what I was being valued at."

So in lieu of negotiating a better contract or having a conversation with his wife, this assistant bowling coach decided to have an affair with one of the athletes, then justified it by saying we wouldn't care if the team didn't win and he might not have done it if he wasn't being worked like a rented mule for the betterment of the program. Plus, he used phrases like "kind of a no-no" and "It was just about how amazing I am," which in the first case sounds like it came from a kindergarten teacher and in the second from a kindergartner. If this isn't the stuff of an elite Normal Gossip episode, it's only because Steve Lemke told his own story all too well. Comrade McKinney, over to you.

[Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel]

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