Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nixon Hired, Guy Won't Talk

What I have below is another column that I wrote for the Elk Grove Citizen that pretty well describes what happened in the hiring fiasco of a new football coach at Elk Grove High School. The truth needs to be told before we can put a lid on this story. Congrats, though, to Chris Nixon for being hired the Herd Football coach!

Here's the column:

After the seven-month-long soap opera called “One Coach To Hire” ( the Elk Grove take-off on One Life To Live), you’d figure the woman playing the role of Susan Lucci’s character would want to have the last say before we put away our hankies and begin to follow our local spring sports teams into the playoffs.

But, as wacky as the winter and spring has been for those who bleed blue and gold, having the principal of the Thundering Herd basically refuse to answer the questions Elk Grove football fans want to know shouldn’t be all that surprising.

The purpose of calling and emailing Catherine Guy earlier this week was to offer her a public forum to explain why the Elk Grove Unified School District’s Human Resources Department pulled rank and rescinded the hiring of Carlos Meraz, the man Guy wanted to coach the varsity football team. Then the Citizen wanted to give her the opportunity to explain why the man Human Resources hired, Chris Nixon, never even got an interview during her coaches’ search earlier this year, despite his excellent football coaching resume and the fact he’s a teacher at Feikert Elementary School.

Ms. Guy and I played phone tag for a couple days this week before we talked Tuesday afternoon. She asked that I not record our phone interview which I do because of the ethical necessity of quoting exactly those to whom I talk when working on a story.

I told her the intention of this story was to be a “Q & A” format which my questions would be printed word-for-word and her answers printed word-for-word. I think all Thundering Herd fans, and for that matter, any local sports fan deserves the right to know:

1.Are you relieved EGHS finally has a new football coach? How has the news of Mr. Nixon being selected as the new coach been received by the players and parents?

2. Looking back over the past seven months, what should have been done differently?

3. When were you informed that a mistake had been made by hiring Mr. Meraz, and if you can, tell me what transpired the past month?

4. Were you aware of the regulation in the (California Educational Code) which basically overruled your hiring of Mr. Meraz? If not, when did you become aware of the regulation?

5. When Mr. Hoskins resigned/retired last fall, was it your intention to bring someone from the outside to replace him?

6. When were you personally aware of Carlson's status as an assistant football coach, according to his coaching stipend contract? Did you think all along he was on the same level as Mr. Hoskins (a head varsity coach), as Mr. Carlson has claimed?

7. Jake Messina, the defensive coordinator at Merced High School, has written me and has also put a posting on an Internet website,, that he was offered the job prior to Meraz, but turned you down because he was not guaranteed a teaching job. Is this true?

8. Has this incident shown Elk Grove how big Thundering Herd football is to this community?

9. What steps are you taking to mend fences between school administration and the football program?

I’m not a pushy guy, ask my wife and those who know me. But, I’m not afraid to ask the right questions, the questions that ,objectively, people who have given of their time, efforts and money to Herd Football really should be told.

Guy asked me to email her those questions and she’d respond. Early Wednesday (after the deadline) I got my response:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address your questions
regarding the football coaching situation at Elk Grove High School. I
appreciate your willingness to give me the "last word" as we move
forward with a program that helps to represent the proud legacy of Elk
Grove High School for generations of families in our community.

I am of course pleased to have the coaching situation resolved and am
encouraged by the enthusiasm that has greeted Coach Nixon. While
reaching our goal has not been without challenges, it is important to
remember that the best interests of Elk Grove High School and its
students, family members, alumni and community have always been foremost in our considerations.

The rules and regulations we work under are designed to create the best
environment for our students and for the success of our academic
mission. From start to finish, the hiring process involving the Elk
Grove football program was conducted within the spirit of our mission,
and while there was a misstep along the way, I believe the process
ultimately worked in the best interest of the students, community and

The football program at Elk Grove High School is important on many
levels. There is an educational component, but there are deeply held
community interests as well. It is this intensity of community loyalty
surrounding our school and athletic programs that makes Elk Grove High
School so unique. Thanks to the hard work, spirit and understanding of
many people, the Thundering Herd's legacy will endure.

Did I expect an answer to all my questions? Maybe not. She probably cannot answer #6 and #7 and maybe, #3, but she could have at least replied, “No Comment.”

But, Thundering Herd fans are due the answer to #4. In talking this week to coaches and faculty throughout the school district, not just at EGHS, everyone continues to question, “Someone, whether it’s Guy, (athletic director Pete) Archerda or (District Athletic Director Jim) Smerker, should have known you cannot offer a coaching position to someone outside the school district without first offering it to a qualified candidate within the district?” A mis-step?

This story has received more reader feedback on than anything else, except for a recent story I did about Jolene Henderson and the Sheldon Lady Huskies softball team marching through the Delta River League … and it’s mainly Elk Grove and Sheldon softball fans doing some trash talking in our comment section.

But, emotions have run high inside Room P-61 and the Herd weightroom. Maybe this soap opera won’t be over with this episode. There may be another chapter to “One Coach To Hire” to be written this summer following the conclusion of the academic year.