JCC assistant football coach reinstatedJACKSON — After more than an hour of tearful pleas and outrage the collective calm of resolution finally came.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — After more than an hour of tearful pleas and outrage, there was finally the calm of resolution.
Wade Wacker will stay.
The Jackson County Central school board voted unanimously to reinstate the JCC assistant football coach at its Thursday afternoon meeting. They also authorized district administration to determine a “reasonable disciplinary action” for both Wacker and head football and baseball coach Tom Schuller.
The board was voting on whether Wacker could continue coaching after the school board athletic council (which usually has the final say on such decisions) recommended he be removed from the district’s coaching staff. The council’s recommendation stemmed from an incident during a recent baseball game against Worthington, in which Wacker was accused of directing his pitcher to throw the ball at a Worthington batter.
Wacker gave his side of the story in a small board room where about 50 community members were gathered.
Wacker was filling in for his father, Tyrone Wacker, who usually coaches the team. At the game in question, he admitted Schuller became upset when Worthington continued sending its seniors to bat, though the team was well ahead of JCC. Then, he said, “The batter tries to drag bunt. Up 12-3 in the last inning with two out. That is a sign of disrespect,” he said.
He did not say he instructed the pitcher, as was alleged, but did meet with his team to tell them they were being disrespected.
“I get the group together and I ask them the question, I say, ‘Do you know what is happening?’ I said, ‘They are on our turf and they are disrespecting you.’ And everybody shook their heads yes. I said ‘Do you know what happens next?’ They said ‘yes.’ I walked back.”
The pitcher then, he recalled, “throws the ball behind the batter. The umpire does nothing. I say the word ‘again.’ … The next pitch goes behind the batter, does not hit the batter, OK? Umpire does nothing. Their coaches get a little upset. We have a little discussion, the game ends.”
After the game, the JCC coaches met with the Worthington coaches and their discussion ended in apologies on both sides, he said, followed by a parent yelling at him and the other coaches, which he said they walked away from.
The next day, Wacker said he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to help coach baseball any longer. He said principal Jim Hirman told him the baseball incident was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” in a list of other complaints about his coaching.
Wacker and his wife, Stacey, demanded to know what the other complaints were, but JCC Superintendent Todd Meyer said they could not be revealed due to data privacy issues.
“I’m telling you there is no privacy issue. I want to know. Tell me the complaints,” Wacker said. “We have a high demand of integrity, class and honor from these kids, and so when I hear some of the stories being told about me, it hurts.
“Nobody’s asked me. … Nobody’s ever asked the student involved, and I’m like, wow, where is this coming from? And that’s my question to you,” he told the board, which remained mostly silent through the meeting.
“You can’t just say this about somebody. Look at all these people here supporting him. I’m sure they would like to know what he’s done,” said Stacey Wacker, in tears.
‘Yes,’ came the murmurs from the crowd.
Bill Brandt, a parent in the district, spoke in support of Wacker.
“We should be grateful we have Wade, for he listens to our children. … We talk of this incident that requires the firing of Wade Wacker yet I don’t believe Wade himself has been told of the reason why he was fired,” Brandt read from a prepared statement, insisting the district should not be able to make such a decision without community input. “No JCC employee … has the right to make a decision about our children without our knowledge, without our presence and without our discussion.”
Schuller aligned himself with Wacker, saying that if Wacker was removed from the football coaching staff, he would not coach during the upcoming football season. He presented two coaching lists for the board’s approval. In one, he and Wacker both coached. In the other, neither did.
“If Tom and Wade aren’t going to coach, I’m not going to coach either,” added another Schuller assistant, Trent Sukalski.
Wacker asked the board to reconsider the athletic council’s decision, saying its members did not have all the facts.
“I have made mistakes by being too intense, by caring too much. And I will make mistakes in the future. But the intent of everything that I do is in the best interest of every kid,” he said.
After amending a motion made by board member John Buschena, the board voted to allow Wacker to continue coaching, but he will face a yet-to-be-determined punishment.
“I think there should be some repercussions,” said JCC school board member Kent Ringkob. “It’s a very polarizing issue, and we need to do something.”
The board also resolved to learn from the issue, saying there should be files kept on coaches and clearer policies for coaching behavior.