Big crowd at school board as football complaints voiced

Apr 24, 2013 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

With six of eight Riverton High School assistant football coaches from last fall's team in the audience, the Riverton school board listened for 30 minutes Tuesday evening to impassioned pleas from patrons in an effort to understand issues related to recent personnel decisions and coaching resignations in the Riverton Wolverine football program.

The discussion was held at the request of a parent after three RHS assistant coaches were asked by head coach Jeremy McCormick to not return to football coaching next year. Subsequently, four of the five remaining assistant coaches resigned.

'Get them fixed'

Seven patrons spoke to the board supporting the assistant coaches: RHS student J.D. Manzanares, parents Jay Reddon, Kevin Watson, Steve Belville, Darryl Steeds and Michelle McMenamy. Chuck Gomendi, father-in-law to assistant coach Derek Watson, also addressed the board.

"We have seven coaches. Not only are they fine people and great football coaches in my opinion, but they love the kids. Most of the kids are playing because of these coaches that are resigning. They are not resigning because the don't like kids, or they don't like football, or they don't want to be involved. I can only imagine what their reasons are. Find out where the problems are, and get them fixed," said Reddon, whose son played for the Wolverines though the 2010 season.

The comments were made to a standing-room-only crowd during the school board's regular Tuesday meeting.

"I have more questions than I do answers. I don't understand why this is happening. I think football is being drug through the mud right now. At the state level, everyone is seeing this, and it is disgraceful to our program. I can't explain why this dark cloud is looming over this successful season." Belville, whose son was a senior on this year's team, said.

This past football season, the Wolverines posted a 6-2 record in the regular season and a perfect 5-0 in the Class 3-A East Conference, earning the team the regular season conference title. The Wolverines lost their first round playoff game to Cody 24-17 at Wolverine Field.

'Our kids deserve better'

"My son loved athletics. Never did he have such a bitter experience as his senior year in football. What kept him going was the assistant coaches that have resigned or have been let go. Our kids deserve better than this," Kevin Watson told the board.

Steeds added his support for the assistant coaches.

"Most of these assistant coaches that are gone are the reason why my son was successful in school. Football kept him cracking the books. Football made him a better person. There is a reason the core group guys here -- this good group of guys -- are leaving. We need to get to the bottom of it and fix it. If we don't fix it, our young men are not going to be on the football field or the wrestling mats or the track, they are going to be on the streets causing problems."

The most emotional plea of the evening came from J.D. Manzanares, an RHS junior.

"I did football my freshman year with all of the assistant coaches. They were wonderful. All those guys, when they see me, shake my hand and ask me how I'm doing. One of the reasons that I was hesitant to pick football (as an upperclassman) was because I would not have been able to work with those assistant coaches. I would have to move up in the hierarchy of who would have to be my coach. It breaks my heart that they (assistant coaches) are not there. I thank all these parents that are here. That is why they fill this place, because they are fighting for us. I appreciate that. Kids want to chose something else in their life because of what is happening. Consider these (assistant coaches). They are speaking for us as kids," Manzanares said.

Earlier this spring, RHS activities director Jeremy Hill stood by McCormick and said that he planned to recommend McCormick for what would be his sixth season as Riverton's head coach. Hill was in the audience Tuesday but was not available for additional comment Wednesday morning. McCormick's overall record as Riverton's head coach, excluding annual week-zero games, is 18-27.

"There probably isn't a program in Wyoming that has had the entire coaching staff, with the exception of one, resign or be terminated. I'm not sure you can turn over seven people and have success. There is a situation, and you all know what it is, and you need to address it," Gomendi urged the board.

McMenamy encouraged the board to visit with current players to understand more about the coaching issues and turmoil.

No dissenting comments

Following the initial comments, Riverton school superintendent Terry Snyder encouraged audience members with a different perspective to come forward to speak, but no one did.

McCormick did not attend Tuesday's meeting.

"We are taking this very seriously. This is a mess. This is something that we need to look into deeply and see what there is to come to resolution on it. It is puzzling to me also as to why we are where we are. I'm very supportive of athletics and activities in this community. They are helpful to kids. I want to commend the dignity in which all of you have spoken," Snyder told the audience.

Board chairman Mark Stone and board members Dean Peranteaux and Carl Manning thanked those in attendance for addressing the board.

"We listened. I guarantee you and I can speak for every member of this board, and we listened to what you had to say. We are going to take a long hard look at this," Stone said.

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