Mar 16, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
More than 50 years of coaching lacrosse at Jordan-Elbridge were swept aside with two votes at last night’s school board meeting.
The board voted 3-4 on the appointment of Mike Smart as J-V coach, and 3-3, with board member Brian Richardson abstaining, on the appointment of Rick Young as varsity coach. As a result, neither will coach this spring.
The first official practice of the season was last Tuesday; the first game is April 1. Interim Superintendent Larry Zacher gave the coaches permission to coach their teams just hours before, while their appointment awaited the school board’s delayed vote.
“The players didn’t know they had coaches until two hours before the season started,” said Rick Young over the phone following the meeting. “And now, with Facebook and everything else, now they know they’re coming to school tomorrow with no coaches, and that’s my biggest concern.”
Young taught physical education at J-E for 30 years before retiring at the end of last year. He was looking forward to his 31st year of coaching the school’s lacrosse team.
Young said he was devastated by the news, though he was mostly concerned for the kids. He’s unsure of who will coach in his place, since his assistant coach, Pat Smart (brother of Mike Smart), told him he now plans to resign.
“It’s not the end of the world for me, I can always get a job somewhere else,” he said.
Young said he and Mike Smart received little explanation from the recently appointed interim athletic director, Phyllis Danks, for not being hired. She was not privy to the board’s reasoning, and suggested he talk to Zacher, Young said.
“I wish I could tell you anything,” he said. “I really am not sure about what happened.”
Young said he felt the board’s decision came down to the grievances of one parent, John Stevenson, whose son was a volunteer assistant coach for the varsity lacrosse team last year. Young decided not to have Stevenson’s son return this year because “it just didn’t work out.”
“30 years of coaching and one parent complaining, and we lose our jobs,” Young said.
During the public comments session of a December school board meeting, Stevenson questioned Mike Smart’s actions as J-E’s varsity football coach. In his speech, Stevenson accused Smart of favoritism and publicly defaming members of the Smart family.
Young said Stevenson later convinced some board members that by not hiring his son back as an assistant coach, Young and Mike Smart were holding a grudge against him.
But Young and his assistant coach, Pat Smart, had made the decision prior to the October meeting where Stevenson spoke, Young said.
One board member abstains
Brian Richardson said he abstained from the vote on Young’s appointment because his son is on the team.
“Because I was so close to it I felt it was important for me to abstain,” he said.
Had Richardson decided to vote “yes” rather than abstain, Young would still be coaching varsity lacrosse at J-E.
“Whether he voted no or abstained, I still don’t get to coach,” Young said, adding:
“I would think I would have gotten some support from him. His older son played for me for four years, and his younger son’s on the team this year, this is his third year.”
It started as a tabled agenda item
During its March 2 meeting, the board of education tabled the appointment of all spring coaches for a special meeting two days later. Smart’s appointment was tabled at that meeting; Young’s recommendation for appointment was left off the agenda.
So when Zacher gave the coaches the go ahead on Tuesday, March 8, it wasn’t official. Young and Smart thought it was just a bump in the road.
“We’ve already coached the last two weeks,” Young said. “We’ve been out there, out in the cold in the parking lot every day, assuming we had a job.”
Neither coach was at last night’s meeting.
“It’s not common practice for a coach or any staff member to attend their appointment,” said Robin Smart, who coaches varsity softball at J-E. Mike Smart is her brother-in-law. “In most districts, a recommendation by the athletic director and/or the superintendent of schools makes the board’s vote a mere formality as the judgement of the professional staff is not questioned.”
Support shown on Facebook
A Facebook group supporting Young and Smart was started last week when their future at J-E first came into question.
“As terrible as I was at lacrosse, these two guys made it extremely fun and a memorable part of my high school career,” wrote Brandon Farrar, one of many former players to post on the group’s page. “… They were two significant mentors to me growing up in J-E. I’m sure anybody else I played with would say the same.”