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This isn't 'Hoosiers'

May 3, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

District 25 must ask and answer why the high school football crisis got as far as it did

Wednesday brought a conclusion to an uncomfortable situation in Fremont County School District 25 when Riverton High School's head football coach resigned. For those who follow the team, there has been lots of talk, and factions emerged related to the resignation and/or firing of most of the assistant coaching staff under head coach Jeremy McCormick.

Those circumstances have been covered in some detail and commented upon in our newspaper and other information outlets, and opinions have been formed on both sides of the issue. McCormick has resigned, which, under the tumultuous circumstances confronting the program, seems the reasonable thing for him to have done.

Often, there comes a point in a conflict in which the principal player or players must ask if they can prevail and go forward productively after the period of scrutiny and bad feelings -- regardless of the validity of the discord.

Many observers of the RHS football crisis had expressed the opinion that McCormick probably could not prevail. In any case, he decided to step down, and that part of the saga is now over.

As the football program and the school district move forward, a couple of questions ought to be answered. First, why did this situation progress as far as it did without being resolved? What happened so that nothing short of intervention by the school board and, ultimately, the superintendent of schools, had to be undertaken before the issue could be put behind us?

Interesting as last week's full-house school board meeting was, that is not how things are supposed to work. It would be wrong for this incident to set a precedent for future personnel matters in the school district. In other words, let's not proceed with the feeling that this is how hiring decisions in our school district are going to get handled from this point forward.

Second, what is to be the specific course of action in hiring a new coach? Some, including the writer of a Ranger letter to the editor this week, have called the actions of the assistants a coup d'etat. That might be a bit strong, but district leadership probably is at least somewhat uncomfortable with the thought of appearing to "reward" one of the dissenting coaches by naming him to the top job following McCormick's departure.

Most of us enjoy the basketball-themed movie "Hoosiers" about a small-town team in the 1950s and the difficulties faced by its coach. A climactic scene in the movie centers on a town meeting in which the coach's future is decided.

It's a dramatic scene, and a good movie -- but it is just a movie. Modern-day administration of school districts has moved well beyond the "Hoosiers"-style town meeting, where the implied threat of mob rule shadowed the proceedings surrounding the combative coach played by Gene Hackman.

Better systems have been put in place, and they seem to have worked well enough in District 25 -- until now.

It is in the best interests of the football team, its future coaches, and the school district, for those systems to be re-examined, reinforced, corrected as necessary, and kept firmly in place for the future.

Let's do our best to ensure that this situation remains an extraordinary exception to the rules -- and leave the rest to the movies.

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