Breaking an unwritten rule may have cost Southern Boone football coach Mike Hall his job.
On March 7, 2005, the Southern Boone County R-1 school district voted to renew Hall’s teaching contract, but his high school coaching position was not renewed by school officials due to his failure to report confirmed knowledge of alcohol use by one of his players.
Though the school handbook does not expressly require staff to report alcohol use to administrators, principal Johnny Thompson said it is expected.
“It’s a guideline set by the school that (staff) is supposed to follow,” Thompson said.
The trouble started early in the 2004 football season, the first in Southern Boone history.
Hall overheard his players discussing a car accident involving one of his players, and he suspected alcohol had been involved.
Hall mentioned the issue to Thompson days later, in August.
“I felt like I needed to do something,” Hall said. “This kid had a history of being in trouble, and alcohol use is one thing I don’t have a lot of tolerance for as a coach.”
He decided to set up a meeting with the student and his parents soon after, during which the student admitted to using alcohol.
His parents agreed to a curfew for their son. If Hall called the house after curfew and the student wasn’t home, he would be kicked off the team.
As far as the student’s alcohol use, the problem seemed to be solved.
“I called frequently during the season, and he was always there,” Hall said. “According to him, he didn’t drink at all during the football season.”
But according to school administration, the problem was far from solved.
On March 7, Hall was called into superintendent Mitch Holbrook’s office for a meeting.
Hall said that during the meeting he was asked one question: Did he have knowledge of alcohol use by a student?
After Hall answered in the affirmative, he said he was asked for his resignation. He refused, and at the school board meeting that night, Holbrook recommended ending Hall’s contract for teaching and coaching.
“It was all pretty baffling to me,” Hall said.
Hall had his chance to plead his case at the meeting. His teaching contract was renewed but his coaching contract was not.
Ten days later, Holbrook told Hall that the coaching suspension would only last one year, after which Hall would have the opportunity to reapply.
“It was a pretty shaky promise,” Hall said. “It would be really difficult to watch (the 2005) season.”
School board member Bill Powell said members of the board had been consulted by school administration regarding the decision not to renew Hall’s contract.
“Personally, I believe much more needs to be done to control substance abuse problems,” he said. “I’m aware that (the punishment) seems harsh to many people.
“But many also believe that a coach who was trying hard to implement school policy and treat his players well could have handled the situation much better.”
Powell is the former chairman of the Southern Boone County Drug Task Force, a group formed by school board members to investigate substance abuse within the school district. The task force stopped meeting several weeks ago. Holbrook and Thompson were also members, according to information on the group’s Web site.
Hall and Powell agreed there is an initiative within the community to convince the school board to reconsider its decision. Hall said community support has exceeded his expectations.
The board will most likely hear arguments about whether or not to renew Hall’s coaching contract at its next meeting, on April 18 at 6:30 p.m. in Ashland.
Hall said regardless of the result, he was confident in the motives behind his decision-making.
“My career at Southern Boone may come to an end because of an error in judgment,” he said. “But it was made trying to help somebody.”