Marcellus JV head football coach Jim Marsh has been suspended two games without pay for making his players lie down in St. Francis Xavier cemetery in Marcellus following a loss to Skaneateles Superintendent Craig Tice announced in a press conference Thursday, Sept. 29.
The remaining two weeks of the season, Marsh will donate his remaining salary, a total of $750, to the St. Francis Xavier Church for upkeep of their cemetery.
Tice was in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. attending the New York state Council of School Superintendents Fall Leadership Summit from Sunday to Tuesday afternoon when news of the situation broke.
“Rest assured,” Tice said, “that the Marcellus Central School District takes this matter most seriously. As Superintendent, I believe that this indeed was a sensitive matter. It has definitely polarized the community.”
Marsh, who will remain as an English teacher and the varsity boys basketball coach at Marcellus, read his statement to players and parents before the regularly scheduled press conference scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Marsh was not present, nor available to comment.
Marsh released a statement which Tice read at the press conference.
“I sincerely regret the undue attention that happened as a result of my action from last Saturday after the game,” Marsh said. “I tried to seize the opportunity to inspire the team with a theme from Remember the Titans.”
In Remember the Titans, Coach Boone takes his team to the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Upon the loss to Skaneateles, coaches and players boarded the school bus to their return trip to campus with both their helmets and pads still on. After an “impromptu” discussion among the coaching staff, the bus driver was directed to stop at the cemetery. According to Tice, players were ordered to take a knee, something they do periodically when listening to instruction. The players were then instructed to lie down, looking towards the sky in a “grassy area between two rows of grave markers and headstones.” After Marsh’s speech, the bus driver, coaching staff and players boarded the bus.
“While some take the position that this has been much to do about nothing,” Tice said, “others are correctly justified that this spur of the moment decision represented a lapse of judgment on the part of the coaching staff regardless of the intended, positive and inspirational message.”
In his statement, Marsh said he does not regret his “core of passion and values” that has allowed him to succeed in his teaching.
“Coaching is nothing but authentic teaching,” his statement read. “I do not regret the message of asking players and students to all that they have for themselves, their peers and their community. I do not regret telling my students, my players, to be resilient when faced with challenges, to accept the responsibility for your actions, and to handle these things with class and dignity.”
Tice received his first notification in complaint at 7:13 p.m. on Sept. 25. Almost immediately the JV coaching staff was placed on administration from Monday, Sept. 26 through Wednesday, Sept. 28 until results of the formal investigation were completed.
Tice indicated the coaching staff used poor judgment in making this “spur of the moment decision” even if Marsh’s comments were intended to be motivational.
“This spur of the moment decision to use the cemetery as the location, coupled with the unplanned change in itinerary on the return trip cause more confusion than understanding among the adolescent players who are in ninth and tenth grade.”
During the investigation, Tice indicated that most of the players used the word “weird” to describe the situation.
Marsh offered to resign, but Tice declined the offer, noting that he took full responsibility and ownership of his actions.
“For someone to step up and accept that responsibility,” Tice said, “I think that’s very noble and important.”