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The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

Sadness, frustration in wake of Coach Sam Horrell’s dismissal

Student and community outcry have followed the removal of Sam Horrell as football coach after MSHSAA violations. Many questions remain unanswered.

It was quite a sight to see. On May 6, hundreds of CHS students congregated on the circular lawn by the front entrance of CHS to protest coach and teacher Sam Horrell’s dismissal from his position as CHS Varsity football coach.

Horrell holds his son as he meets with students in the circle on May 6, when hundreds of students walked out of class to protested his dismissal as football coach by walking out of class. (Thalia Sass)
Horrell holds his son as he meets with students in the circle on May 6, when hundreds of students walked out of class to protested his dismissal as football coach by walking out of class. (Thalia Sass)

The decision to dismiss Horrell from his coaching position was made by the administration after they learned that Horrell had been attending off-season workouts with Wydown Middle School eight graders in February.

“Coach Horrell was engaged in strength and conditioning workouts with eighth graders from Wydown Middle School,” Athletic Director Bob Bone said.

Ann Brown, whose eighth grade son attended one workout, doesn’t recall her son being invited specifically by any of the CHS coaching staff.

“I don’t really know how it got started,” Ann Brown said. “I thought that it was kind of the word of mouth with the kids, but I don’t know.”

Ann Brown doesn’t agree with Horrell’s dismissal and believes that the workout sessions didn’t warrant the controversy that has resulted.

“[My son] went to one session and felt uncomfortable with the high school kids there and stood around and did nothing,” Ann Brown said. “He said he wasn’t going back, it was ‘stupid,’ and that there was no instruction or guidance.”

Andy Brown, who is of no relation to Ann Brown, also has an eighth grade son who participated in the workout sessions and believes that the punishment given to Horrell was too harsh.

“From my point of view, I don’t think what the kids did was a violation at all,” Andy Brown said.

Andy Brown believes that the sessions were too informal to be considered violations.

“There was nothing formal about any of it,” Brown said. “[My son] played catch in the gym with Chase [Haslett] a couple times, which is not against any rules, to play catch with another student. He was never coached.”

The alleged violation came to light after one of the eight grade parents called the school about the workouts.

“Her son had come up to work out,” Principal Louise Losos said. “He had normally come in the back door, through the link with one of the coaches. That coach wasn’t there. She was wanting to find out what was going on because he had to pay a visitor fee because they weren’t members….”

Once the administration found out about the violation from the parent, they investigated the incident and then self-reported the alleged violation to the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA). Then, MSHSAA responded to the administration that Horrell had violated MSHSAA policy.

Bone said that the decision to dismiss Horrell from coaching was not made lightly.

“This is a high school athletics issue,” Bone said. “Dr. Losos and I made the decision in consultation with the High School Administrative Team and the District Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.”

Horrell was not dismissed from his post as a physical education teacher and currently plans to teach at CHS next year.

“High school coaches cannot work with eighth graders,” Losos said. “You can work with sixth or seventh graders, but not eighth graders.”

The decision to self-report was made because doing so is required of the administration by MSHSAA. Additionally, had someone else reported the incident after the team had already started the following season, “the entire season would have been wiped out, the students involved would have been ineligible… and there would have been greater consequences for [our] school’s noncompliance,” Losos said.

Despite the reasoning of the administration, enough students disagreed with the administration’s decision that they staged a substantial protest.

Seniors Wolfy Gaidis and Chase Haslett were instrumental in organizing the protest, in large part because of their personal relationship with Horrell. Gaidis, who felt that Horrell’s punishment was “far too severe,” hoped to use the protest to publicly defend Horrell.

“Coach Horrell has been a really big part of my life,” Gaidis said. “I mean, he’s a really positive guy; he teaches us a good work ethic. He always makes sure he’s there for you when you need him. Chase Haslett and I have both been playing with him for a while and we just kind of thought something needed to be done. It’s not right for him to go out like this. He deserves much better.”

CHS students and much of the community are overwhelmingly in support of Horrell, with the “Bring Back Coach Horrell” Facebook page having over 800 members as of May 11.

For many students who knew Horrell, football players especially, he was more than just a coach.

“I’ve known him since second grade and, this is a little bit cheesy, but he’s kind of like a second father to me,” Gaidis said. “He made sure that all of his players, especially his older players and the big men on the line, had a family to go to. Even if you were having trouble at home or, you know, troubles outside, he made sure he was always there for you.”

Adam Banks (CHS ’09), who was a quarterback on the football team under Horrell, also remembers Horrell as a father figure who was a wonderful example for the students on his team.

“I lost my dad when I was in the eighth grade, and I don’t know a person who has lost a parent and just compares anyone to their lost parent,” Banks said on the Facebook page. “For four years Sam Horrell was a father figure in my life and for that I admire him very much. Sam’s coaching transcends the boundaries of the football field and is applicable to much more in life. Everyone who has played for Coach Horrell knows about being in the circle and out of the circle and controlling what you can control. This idea is just one of many that are applicable to the field and also to life in general.”

Horrell showed up to the rally in his support and was given printouts of the Facebook page in support of him by students.

“I walked out there and was greatly surprised by the student support and outcry and the feelings…  [it] has been absolutely tremendous and very heartwarming,” Horrell said. “I think, in education, there are a lot of times when you don’t ever as an educator get to know how your students feel about you, and I’m very fortunate right now for that. The way that the alumni, the students, and parents and community are expressing their feelings toward me, I’m very grateful for their thoughts.”

While Losos disagreed with the  goal to reinstate Horrell as football coach, she appreciated that the students who participated in the rally behaved peacefully.

“The students were… manifesting their first amendment rights to peacefully assemble and petition for redressive grievances,” Losos said. “I thought that Coach Horrell should really feel supported and loved by the students. I had a number of teachers say to me that they were proud that the students followed through. In many ways, the reality is that the students have behaved better than many of the adults involved, I’m not talking Coach Horrell here, going back to Facebook here.”

However, Losos has found herself at odds with incorrect facts and misinformation being spread around the community. For instance, many defenders of Horrell have claimed that MSHSAA categorizes Horrell’s alleged violation as a “minor” violation that only calls for a five-game suspension for the coach. According to MSHSAA Communications Director Jason West, categorizations such as “major” and “minor” don’t apply to the case in question.

“We just don’t have those distinctions,” West said. “Flat out.”

West said that MSHSAA doesn’t have the authority to suspend a coach for conduct off the field, but that the eighth grade students involved face ineligibility for a 365-day period. However, because CHS self-reported the incident and took actions against Horrell, this might impact the MSHSAA Board’s decision of whether to keep the players involved ineligible.

“Any corrective action that the school takes, they have a self-report and are asking for a lesser penalty, is taken into consideration by the Board of Directors,” West said.

Despite some assertions that the administration used video surveillance from the weightlifting room, Losos said that video surveillance from the weightlifting room wasn’t used as evidence.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation out there,” Losos said. “Like, that this happened in the weightlifting room. No, this has nothing to do with lifting weights. It has nothing to do with a coach spotting another student to make sure that they’re safe. The eighth grader participation occurred out on the Center courts.”

Additionally, Losos refutes any rumors that she sent in surveillance videos to MSHSAA or leaked the names of any students involved.

“I’ve heard the rumor that we sent video of eighth graders to MSHSAA,” Losos said. “That’s not true. No video has been sent to MSHSAA. No names have been sent anywhere. It’s a complete misunderstanding.”

Ultimately, for Losos, the decision was about protecting the students.

“The eighth graders are truly the innocent victims in all of this,” Losos said. “They were doing what they were invited to do and, so, they did nothing wrong.”

Unfortunately for the members of the community who want to know all of the details of the case, Losos is legally obligated to withhold certain personnel information regarding Horrell’s dismissal.

“Did we have to remove Coach Horrell as coach? No we did not have to do that,” Losos said. “We had to do something. There is other information that led us to make that decision, but that’s information I cannot share with you.”

Losos believes that her ability to defend the administration’s decision has been affected by the restrictions on what factors in the decision-making process they can reveal.

“When I got hired, my line has always been to students and, certainly, to Globe reporters that, if I can’t explain a decision, then I shouldn’t have made it,” Losos said. “I still believe that. Unfortunately, I’m constricted in explaining the full decision.”

Students join hands as they encircle Gay Field. Protest leaders, such as Chase Haslett and Wolfy Gaidis, aimed to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Once they commanded the attention of students, the leaders instructed the crowd to remain cooperative.
Students join hands as they encircle Gay Field in Protest on Friday, May 6th. Leaders, such as Chase Haslett and Wolfy Gaidis, aimed to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. Once they commanded the attention of students, the leaders instructed the crowd to remain cooperative.

For more photos of the student protest, click here.

Protest photos (Andrea Stiffelman):

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  • M

    m loganMay 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    This EXCUSE of a season being wiped out is hard to understand when 8th graders are members of the Center. Also, I think the principal needs to ask how many athletes are ruled ineligible for freshman participation when a school self reports to MSHSAA.

  • M

    m loganMay 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    This is a sad commentary when a principal says, “Did we have to remove Coach Horrell as coach? No we did not have to do that,” Losos said. “We had to do something. There is other information that led us to make that decision, but that’s information I cannot share with you.”

    Why didn’t she start by supervising her coach and give him directions? Better yet, does she know Mr Bone is in the Center every day for two plus hours in the fitness area working out? Why didn’t she direct him to take some of that time to talk to Coach Horrell when he teaching his PE classes?

  • J

    Jake BrownMay 12, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Last Thursday, Dr. Losos and Bob Bone came to my school, pulled me out of class, and apologized to me for my name being leaked to someone in the student body at Clayton High School. In this article, she claims that no names were leaked. If her statements are true, why would she have come and apologize to me?

  • A

    Andy BrownMay 12, 2011 at 12:13 am

    If MSHAA is to vote on the 8th graders eligibility(as stated in this article) then I would assume Dr Losos would have to provide the names of the 8th graders involved. This would seem at odds with her claim that no names and no videos had been submitted to MSHAA. She may be correct as of today, but how can MSHAA vote without knowing the names and seeing the proof? And she still insists these were organized football specific training sessions soley for football players and under the supervision and direction of the football coaching staff. These are simply not true statements.

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Sadness, frustration in wake of Coach Sam Horrell’s dismissal