View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 2/1

Dion Clisso

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: February 1, 2011 - 10:04 PM

A couple weeks ago I posed a question. I wondered if the current state of the economy would mean some schools would not change coaches this offseason due to possible limitations on hiring teachers from outside the district.

The offseason has already seen several coaching positions come open. For one reason or another Belton, Blue Valley North, Bonner Springs, Grain Valley and Oak Grove were all looking for new head coaches. Only Belton has already filled its position. The Pirates hired former Kearney coach Mark Thomas last week.

The others are still currently open and I’m sure the administrations have started or will soon begin their search for a new coach.

The reasons for these openings are varied. Some coaches decided to go in a different direction. Some the schools decided it was time and in the case of Grain Valley, the coach is retiring. Change is part of the coaching profession even at the high school level and a lot of coaches don’t get the choice on when they want to leave a job.

It is well within the right of any administration to make a change in their football program. Wins and losses probably shouldn’t be the reason, but as one veteran coach told me in the end that is what usually happens.

Ok, that’s fine I guess. Football is a revenue producing sport and the highest profile sport at almost every school in the Metro. In fact, at many schools football is the only sport that profits at all and at others it is a money loser all together.

Of the jobs listed above all of them finished with losing seasons last year except two. Of the two who finished with a winning record one retired and one was fired. Like I said, it is the administration’s right to hire and fire whoever they want.

Whenever a job comes open you hear some reasons. Sometimes the coach just wants to spend more time with his family. As a man with a nine-month old son I can certainly respect that. Other coaches may not get along with the administration or have different ideas on how the football program should be run or continued losing means it is just time for a change.

Those situations happen every year. This time I’ve heard a new and somewhat shocking reason why a coach was not retained. In one school the administration was split on the decision to retain the coach. The decision of the building administrators was 2-1 to retain the coach. The vote then went to the board where the vote was 4-1 with two abstentions not to renew the coach.

Ok, while that situation is a little different, school boards have long overruled the will of the administrators they have hired to run their schools. That’s nothing new. School boards are a political body and politics will play a role in many decisions.

When I heard the reasons that were possibly behind the votes not to retain the coach a few jumped out at me. First the coach did not live in the school district and that wasn’t looked upon highly. Some would say a fair reason, but a quick investigation into other coaches at that school find that the majority all live outside the district.

Another reason I heard was the head high school coach didn’t get along with the little league football coaches. Let that sink in for a minute. The little league football coaches didn’t like how the high school coach was running his program.

Now we have reached a new low. If any member of the school board or the administration were influenced by the opinion of a bunch of fathers who spend a couple of hours a night and one hour on Saturdays playing football coach, the board members and administrators should lose the right to hire and fire employees.

If this is where we are as a society it is time to clean house from the top down. There’s an old saying I like to use “Know your role.” For you little league coaches that means teaching kids how to block, tackle, play the game hard and have fun doing it. For the administrators and school board members it is to act like adults and make sound decisions in hiring and firing of employees

What makes this situation stink even more is the coach didn’t lose his teaching job, in fact he was given a glowing recommendation to retain his job. Sounds like the kind of person who should be leading young people not just in the classroom.

Maybe this is an isolated incident, maybe the story I’ve heard is overblown. I really hope so because if the day has come where a little league coach or coaches can get a high school coach fired then maybe it is time for high schools to not hire professional coaches to run their programs and just let Billy’s dad coach the team his senior year, because he won the little league Super Bowl when Billy was nine.

Dion Clisso is the Managing Editor of PrepsKC. To reach Dion Clisso send e-mail to