University Academy coach Paul steps down
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Football in the urban core is losing one of the more stable influences. University Academy coach and athletic director Damon Paul will not be heading the Gryphons program next season.
The announcement came this week after what Paul said was much soul searching. He said there are some issues at the school that need to be addressed and he felt it was best for him to step aside at this time.
“There are some issues that are going on in the school with the students and the staff that I felt like I had to be a voice and the only way some dialogue would start was for me to step away at this point,” Paul said. “Hopefully that will spark some dialogue and get some of those issues resolved. I love the kids at UA and it was probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my life to this point but I felt it had to be made at this time.”
Paul started the Gryphons program when the school began in 2000. University Academy was one of the first charter schools in Kansas City, Missouri and has become one of the success stories in the charter school industry.
When the program began University Academy fielded just a junior varsity squad the first two years. That second year the Gryphons played a regular season as a JV squad then played the final three games of the year in varsity district play. The team took its lumps but within just a few years University Academy was one of the more competitive programs in Missouri Class 1 winning its district the last three years.
Given the challenges that face football programs that serve the urban core, Paul was very pleased with what his players were able to achieve the past 12 seasons.
“It’s been remarkable,” Paul said. “I know when we started the program a lot of people thought we were crazy. They would even go and tell kids they would never have a chance to win at UA and we would never send kids to college and we would never have any all-state players. Through a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears we’ve been able to build something.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the first four years myself and my immediate staff worked for free and purchased a lot of the gear out of our pockets because we were dedicated to do something that hadn’t been done in the city other than at Hogan (Prep). That was to provide kids with a good education and at the same token provide a high quality of football for our kids as well.”
The next step for Paul is unknown at this time. He still plans on being a member of the community he served and a part of football in some way.
“I love coaching it’s in my blood,” Paul said. “I’ve met with some people already. I’ll coach Pop Warner or whatever. I’m going to stay in coaching. I enjoy just watching kids grow.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is having 100 percent of the kids play for me go to college. That’s what I set out to do. I’m committed to the kids in the urban core. Hopefully I can do something in the urban core and help kids in the urban core.”
University Academy Principal Clem Ukaoma was sad to see Coach Paul step down.
“Coach Paul's decision to resign his position with us came as a shock, especially, in light of what he has meant to Gryphon athletic programming in general and football in particular," Principal Ukaoma said in an e-mail to PrepsKC.
"Upon hearing that he had announced his decision to resign to students, parents, and his coaches, at our spring sports banquet, I called him at home and tried to talk him out of it." Ukaoma said. "We talked for quite a while, Coach Paul thanked me, but said he had decided to hang it all up. That's the kind of mann he is."
University Academy has begun the search for a new head coach and PrepsKC will keep you up to date with that process.
Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars
Hogan Prep Academy Rams
Pleasant Ridge Rams
Olathe North Eagles
St. Paul Lutheran Saints
St. Marys Trojans
Blue Valley North Mustangs
Lees Summit Tigers
West Platte Bluejays
Van Horn Falcons
Liberty North Eagles
Pleasant Hill Roosters
St. Joseph LeBlond Golden Eagles
Jefferson County North
Liberty Blue Jays
Crest Ridge Cougars