The Breaking News section of the Coach And Athletic Director website is updated daily. Here are some recent highlights of particular interest to coaches, athletic directors and trainers.
WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Board of Education on Wednesday moved to terminate an assistant football coach who posted negative comments about school officials on Facebook, and a substitute custodian arrested Saturday on drug-related charges.
The board moved to immediately terminate Scott Joseph, an assistant football coach at Brooke High School, at the recommendation of Kathy Kidder, superintendent.
"This person chose to berate and belittle Brooke High School in a public forum," said Kidder, referring to a Facebook page established by Joseph.
Board President Jim Piccirillo said Joseph also was "insubordinate" to Kidder and Assistant Superintendent Marty Bartz during phone calls he made to them.
Asked to clarify, Kidder said Joseph used offensive language while speaking to her.
Kidder said Joseph was unhappy with a letter sent by the board advising his contract would end at the end of the current school year. She said nine such letters were sent to coaches hired from outside the school system.
Kidder said it's the board's policy to fill coaching positions first from the district's professional personnel, such as teachers.
If none bid on the positions, the positions are advertised to the public, but "citizen coaches" hired from the public are on a one-year contract that is terminated at the end of each school year, she said.
Kidder said the citizen coaches are advised they may apply for their jobs in the next school year if they aren't filled in-house. She said form letters are used to notify the coaches, though a congratulatory comment on an outstanding season may be added.
Joseph, who was called for comment, said he disputes his contract ends with the school year and not on June 30, which would allow him to work with players in training. But he said his anger with school officials stems primarily from his belief that he, Brooke Head Football Coach Tom Bruney and the Brooke football team have been treated unfairly because he and Bruney are seen as outsiders.
Joseph didn't deny he swore at Kidder and Bartz but said he didn't threaten them.
Kidder said there was no truth to rumors that a restraining order had been sought against Joseph.
Brooke County Sheriff Richard Ferguson has called Joseph "a person of interest" but said Wednesday the school board hasn't pursued criminal charges against him and no charges have been filed.
For a while Joseph adjusted privacy settings for the Wall section of his Facebook page to allow anyone to see it, according to officials.
The page included a graphic of a heart with dripping letters spelling the words "F-- You Brooke," and criticisms of school officials, whom he described as liars, according to officials. None were mentioned by name.
Several individuals identifying themselves as Brooke High School students had posted comments supporting Joseph.
One suggested he was voicing his grievance in the wrong way, noting his actions have spurred the attention of local law enforcement.
By late Wednesday the graphic had been removed and privacy settings changed so the Wall couldn't be viewed by everyone.
Joseph said his anger with school officials is due in part to an incident at the Brooke-Morgantown game in which he was struck by a rowdy fan he said had been jeering the Brooke players.
He noted under state law, someone charged with assaulting a school official faces specific penalties. But he said no action was taken against the other man while he was escorted from the field and suspended without pay.
Joseph, who said he'd tried to be a positive influence on the players and their friends, was asked if he was sending the wrong message to them by using obscenities to criticize school officials on his Facebook page.
"Maybe I could have used fewer cuss words or no cuss words at all," he said. "I was very upset when I wrote that, but I still feel the same way. They (Brooke school officials) are liars and not good people to work with."
Joseph was asked about images of Michael Myers of the "Halloween" movies, Charles Manson, the Zodiac Killer and Ted Bundy that appeared, along with DeMarcus Ware, by a heading "People who inspire Scott" on the page.
Joseph said he worked in law enforcement for 10 years and his interest in such figures stems only from his interest in psychology and forensic science. The heading was a result of changes in format by those behind Facebook and not his doing, he said.
"They don't inspire me none whatsoever. If that's what it says, I'll have to change that," Joseph said.
In other business, the board moved to suspend indefinitely Sean Rujak, a substitute custodian for the school district.
Rujak was charged by Weirton Police Monday with transporting crack cocaine into the state with the intent to deliver.
He is being held in the Northern Regional Jail and his case is pending in Brooke County Magistrate Court.
Kidder said Rujak's suspension complies with personnel policy addressing such situations.
Asked by Piccirillo if background checks had been performed for the two before they were hired, Bartz said they were and the two passed the test.
One high school football team in Texas is going to need a lot more Friday night lights.
Allen High in suburban Dallas is nearing the completion of a $60 million upgrade that will transform its football stadium into a college-style coliseum.
The state-of-the-art behemoth will boast an 18,000-seat horseshoe seating area with an upper deck, a video scoreboard, a two-tier press box, concession stands as well as an arts auditorium, training room and indoor practice arena for the golf team.
More than 60% of the city's residents voted in favor of the project in 2009, but some education officials have said that the project is excessive because schools around the state have been slashing budgets.
"It's hard when people are losing their jobs and you're building a $60 million dollar stadium and an auditorium and things like that," school athletic director Steve Williams told CNN. "But…those are two separate things. You can't take that money for buildings and hire teachers with it."
The Eagles' current stadium, built in 1976, holds more than 14,000 fans, but supporters say that's a tight squeeze on game day.
Nearly 5,000 students attend Allen -- the only high school in the district – and its marching band is the largest high school band in the country, with more than 600 members.
"I think that's what people who aren't for this area or aren't from Texas don't understand the magnitude of the event and how many people come to watch and support their kids," Williams said.
The plan also adds 1,500 extra parking spot to the 5,000 already available.
Texas School District Superintendent Ken Helvey predicts the new gridiron palace will be a cash cow for the strapped town.
"The stadium alone is going to generate considerable revenue for the community," Helvey told CNN. "A lot of people may not understand this, but that revenue goes right back into the whole fund for the teachers. It doesn't go directly to the football program."
The stadium is scheduled to be completed next year and the first game is to be played in August 2012.
There are at least four larger high school stadiums in Texas, but they are typically used by more than one team.
Oviedo High School has been slammed with fines, firings and sanctions because of player-eligibility violations in its wrestling and volleyball programs that Seminole school officials say are the worst infractions they can recall.
The Florida High School Athletic Association levied $57,000 in fines against the school, plus banned the boys' wrestling team from participating in any district, regional or state competitions for the next three school years. That's a crushing blow for the team that is considered among the best in the state.
District officials confirmed Monday that the Oviedo girls' volleyball team also is on probation after the FHSAA levied numerous sanctions resulting in the school's athletic director and assistant athletic director losing those positions.
Athletic directors in New Jersey are overworked, sick of dealing with unruly parents and more worried about budget issues than they were a decade ago, according to a Star-Ledger survey.
At the annual Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey convention in Atlantic City last month, The Star-Ledger surveyed approximately 100 athletic directors from public and private high schools across the state. Four survey and six open-ended questions were asked, and the responses provide a rare glimpse into the thinking of the men and women whose actions affect more than 270,000 student-athletes. Some athletic directors didn’t answer every question.
Among the most interesting findings:
• Poor sportsmanship by parents, fans and student-athletes is the biggest concern of ADs.
• Budgeting their own time and their school’s money have become issues they deal with on a daily basis.
• The growing knowledge of concussions has led to a larger concern for the management and prevention of brain injuries.
• Most ADs are satisfied with the operations of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, but continue to question the public/non-public setup for competition.
The survey generated anonymous responses from athletic directors whose experience ranged from four months to 39 years.
In subsequent follow-up interviews, ADs were given a chance to speak specifically and on the record about several topics.
“This job is 24/7 and every day is a new adventure,” said Bill Edelman, the athletic director at Vernon High in Sussex County and president of the DAANJ. “I always share this with young ADs: Once you know what you’re doing, this job is just like treading water. And at best your lips are just above the surface.”
In his 6 1/2 years as the athletic director at Madison High in Morris County, Sean Dowling has seen “some ugly stuff.”
And he’s not the only one.
The survey showed that 87 percent of ADs are either “often” or “always” worried about the sportsmanship of parents and fans; 84 percent expressed the same concern over the sportsmanship of student-athletes.
To try to minimize rowdy behavior in the bleachers, Dowling hosts a meet-the-coaches night for parents each sports season — a strategy implemented at many other high schools — to discuss behavior at games.
“The expectations of parents on officials and on athletes are unrealistic,” Dowling said. “I tell the parents: ‘Your kids are playing sports because it’s fun. The coaches are there because it’s fun. You should be attending your sons’ and daughters’ games because it’s fun.’”
Edelman said it’s difficult to reinforce proper expectations for student-athletes when parents misbehave at games.
“We remind them that they are the adults and they should be acting as such,” Edelman said. “After a while, it gets so old that some athletic directors just don’t want to deal with it. That’s probably why we have such a high turnover rate — when you have to deal with out-of-control parents you say, ‘This isn’t worth it. I’m getting out.’”
As school aid is cut across the state, the effects have trickled down to high school athletic departments on several levels, including budgeting time and money.
On an open-ended question, 38 ADs said the biggest difficulty they face on a daily basis is having too many responsibilities. District-wide cuts have sometimes forced ADs to take a leadership role in additional areas of the school, such as physical education, the health program and discipline, among others.
At Columbia High, athletic director Dave Curtin might be the busiest man in the building. In addition to overseeing athletics, he also directs student activities and clubs, the student council, the custodial staff and oversees all building and facility use.
Oh, and he’s the varsity football coach.
“Little elves don’t come in during the night and take care of all this,” said Curtin, who pointed out his added responsibilities are not the result of budget cuts. “You just do it. You just have to get it done. You just think on your feet and take care of it.”
Meanwhile, athletic directors are being asked to slice money from their own departmental budget — sometimes in the form of freshman teams or entire sports programs.
Seventy percent of ADs are “much more” concerned with budget issues than they were a decade ago or at the beginning of their tenure.
Health and Liability
As sports and injury awareness continues to evolve, athletic directors are taking a more active role in seeking preventative measures.
Thirty-seven percent of ADs are “always” concerned about risk management and liability — and 64 percent are more worried about those than they were a decade ago.
“It seems like the first response when someone gets injured is to sue first and gather information later,” said Steve Jenkins, the athletic director at Bloomfield High.
But Jenkins said the focus isn’t on liability in many of the health-related areas, specifically concussions.
“We don’t want to do a better job with concussion management because we’re scared of being sued, but because we want to treat the kids better,” he said.
As the recent influx of information about concussions has created growing awareness, 60 percent of ADs are now “often” or “always” concerned about concussion management. Even more telling: 84 percent are more worried than they were 10 years ago.
“There is information overload, and there’s a panic that’s going through, but I think it’s warranted,” said Dowling, the Madison AD. “Kids are getting bigger, faster and stronger with all this training and they’re more susceptible to these concussions.”
The individuals who speak with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports, more than anyone else in the state are largely happy with the job the embattled organization does.
Eighty percent of ADs are either “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the NJSIAA’s day-to-day operations.
“Not only do they answer their phones, but I have three cell phone numbers for people down there, too,” Dowling said. “They are absolutely accessible, and they get back to you. No issue from an AD is too small for them.”
On an open-ended question asking what the NJSIAA does best, 47 ADs said the organization is attentive, accessible and answers questions quickly. On a separate open-ended question, asking in which area the organization needs the most work, 16 ADs remarked about “public relations” or “educating people about everything they do.”
“What has happened from all of this scrutiny of them,” Dowling said, “it’s allowed the athletic directors to take a step back and look at (the NJSIAA) a little harder, a little deeper. And it’s given everyone a greater appreciation for what they do on a daily basis.”
The biggest concern among ADs regarding the NJSIAA remains its handling of issues between public and non-public schools — long a point of contention in the state. Thirty-nine percent of ADs are either “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the NJSIAA in that area. (Twenty-four percent were neutral and 37 percent fell on the “satisfied” end of the spectrum.)
On an open-ended question, 19 ADs identified this concern as the area on which the NJSIAA needs the most work.
Edelman, the AD at Vernon High, said the NJSIAA’s efforts to cure the imbalance — most recently, with a realignment of schools in the north — simply haven’t worked.
“You’re asking people who have a passion for competing to compete and play on a level playing field,” Edelman said. “But the playing field isn’t level. And that’s a problem.”