Supt. Terry Snyder told an overflow audience the firing and resignation of the entire assistant coaching staff for the RHS football program “was a mess” and he promised a resolution in the controversy. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – A near overflow crowd of about 70 patrons filled the Fremont County School District #25 meeting room Tuesday night to ask the school board to investigate the Riverton High School Football program. As voiced by Jay Reddon, Kevin Watson, Steve Belville, Darrel Steeds, J.D. Manzanares, and Chuck Gomendi, the six individuals each earned applause from the audience when they questioned why the entire assistant coaching staff had been released by the head coach or had resigned.
The Wolverines last season had, on paper, a very successful year, winning the conference championship and playing their way into the state quarterfinals.
“We are taking this very seriously, this is a mess,” said Superintendent Terry Snyder after nearly one hour and 15 minutes of emotional testimony and comment. “I can’t tell you what the resolution will be, but we will look long and hard at all the components. We are concerned, we will work hard to address the issues,” he said.
Reddon, who said he was urged by his son to attend the meeting, said his boy had graduated in 2011 and was now in college. As any parent, Reddon acknowledged that parents can sometimes become too involved in their sons athletics, are biased in favor of their kids, but he said when his son came to him expressing upset over how he was treated in the program, Reddon said he told his boy “to work it out himself.” But Reddon said, “It did not turn out well, lies were told to other coaches and hard feelings developed between my son and other players.” Reddon asked the school administration and board to “sit down and talk to the coaches who are resigning. Take a serious look at this program,” he said. “This is way more that just about Riverton football. I know the benefits that come from extra curricular activities. Take this seriously and find out what’s going on for yourself.”
Kevin Watson said his son “never had such a bitter experience as his senior year in football. What kept him going are the assistant coaches that have resigned or have been let go.” He said his son had a similar experience to that of Johnny Reddon, but he also said that if not for the effort of coaches from other schools around the state, his son would not have had a chance to play college ball. Watson credited the coach from Douglas and other schools for talking his son up to coaches at Black Hills State University. He said his son didn’t get any support from Riverton’s coach and the one tape sent out to recruiters, “was the same one for all the kids, and unfortunately my son wasn’t an interior lineman so he didn’t get any benefit out it.”
Belville said there were more questions about what is happening in the program than answers. He called the current situation “disgraceful” and said he could not understand why there was such a black cloud following such a successful season. Belville said the program “is dissolving before our eyes.” Like Watson, Belville said his son hadn’t received a lot of support from the “top level of the coaching staff.”
Steeds credited the football program for keeping his son in school and being successful, but he said he had concerns for another son who is just entering high school. “The reason my sons played football is for the assistant coaches, that’s the reason they wanted to wrestle and participate in track. Those coaches want to bring out the best of our boys and there’s a reason the core group is leaving. You need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
An outsider to the program, Chuck Gomendi from Wind River, said he thought it was probably unique that out of eight coaches, seven are released or resigned en masse. “Continuity is what makes a program successful,” he said. “You all know what the problem is, you need to address it,” he said.
The most emotional testimony came from a student not in the football program. J.D. Manzanares was there to talk about the Key Club at RHS, but he said even though he wasn’t in the program past his freshman year, the assistant coaches “were wonderful. I think a lot of these guys who shake my hand and ask me what I’m doing. I had to choose between Key Club and football, and it breaks my heart that they are not there now,” he said, choking back sobs. “Please consider what is happening. They are speaking for us kids. Talk to the players, some are now out of the loop and feel very hurt about that,” he said
The trustees thanked the audience for attending the meeting, and especially those who talked.
“This is citizenship 101,” said board member Carl Manning. “You are addressing your representatives. “ Manning said the board hires a superintendent to work out problems like this, “and we trust him to do this for us, but it’s wonderful to have you here telling us something that we need to hear. It is not unimportant what you’ve done tonight.” Manning told the big audience “there will be a resolution and there will be a program that you can be proud of.”
Head football coach Jeremy McCormick did not attend the meeting.