In the case of the Davis High boys volleyball team, the truth continues to be stranger than fiction.
Nine days after Julie Crawford was told by DHS administrators that she would not be asked back for her fourth year as Blue Devil boys coach — and one day after the school board agreed to hear her appeal of a school district finding that she violated board policy in the fall — the district hired Rob Cole as its new boys volleyball coach on Friday. Then, district administrators changed their minds six hours later.
Now, Crawford’s assistant coaches Ron Duer and Jordan Friend have taken over the team on an interim basis. There was no announcement made by the district or Davis High administration but Duer confirmed the report in an email to The Enterprise late Saturday.
“Jordan Friend and I are co-interim coaches until Julie gets her job back,” Duer wrote in the email, adding that practice started Friday night.
Duer, a 2006 DHS graduate who played basketball and baseball for the Blue Devils, and Friend each spent time as assistant coaches for last year’s squad. Duer is a paraeducator at Harper Junior High.
While those two get set for a Monday practice, Cole, a veteran club coach, is left to wonder what happened on Friday.
“I had an interview on (Thursday) with a four-member panel that included an athlete and (DHS Principal Will Brown),” Cole told The Enterprise. “I was told later that I was unanimously agreed upon. By the end of the day, I was contacted by human resources at Davis High and told they want to hire me and they emailed me the necessary (paperwork).
“Since I’m already certified as a coach, I was able to complete everything, including the fingerprinting, by 10 a.m. on Friday morning. Then I signed a contract with the district to become the boys volleyball coach.”
But his stint lasted just under six hours as the real estate agent who also works with Sparkle’s Car Wash in Woodland and lives in Auburn got a call just before 4 p.m. from Davis Superintendent Winfred Roberson.
“At 3:54 p.m., I got a call from the superintendent and was told that they were ‘changing the direction’ and that I would be reimbursed for the fingerprinting,” Cole said. “I was told that (Duer and Friend) turned down the job last week.
“My understanding is that after hearing that I was hired, (Duer and Friend) sat down with superintendent and said they wanted the job. It’s obvious that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”
Cole, a former Placer High player from 1993 to 1996 who served in the U.S. Army from 1998 through 2007, says he still wants to bring his several years of coaching experience to the Blue Devil program. Cole was Gold Medal Square Certified by BYU men’s coach Chris McGown in 2010 and has been coaching with the Northern California Volleyball Club since then.
“My only goal is to fulfill the contract I signed with the Davis Joint Unified School District,” Cole said. “I’m actually looking at seeking legal advice; I’m going to do some investigating to see if (what they did) is legal. And I’m working on an email to the school board letting them know what is going on.
“I take pride in taking over struggling programs and picking them up. Really, these kids just need to get back out there playing volleyball. I can guarantee that if they let me fulfill my contract, I will get this program running in a way that is much better for the kids, without all the drama.”
So eager was Cole to coach the DHS squad that he said immediately upon signing his contract Friday morning, he began to take steps to get the program ready for the upcoming season.
“I got a website up with a calendar and contacted some coaches to try and add some matches to the schedule,” Cole said. “They didn’t have jerseys yet, which is odd for a program that is already going. I finalized the unfinished jersey order (on Friday).”
The job become open on Feb. 5, when Crawford,who has coached the Blue Devil girls and boys teams for the past three years, said Brown told her that she was being let go as boys coach. At that time, tryouts were scheduled to begin on Monday, Feb. 10.
It was the second time in a year that the two-time former Delta Valley Conference Coach of the Year — once each for boys and girls — who had brought each Davis team to the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, had seen her contract not renewed.
In June, Crawford was informed by DHS officials that she would not be the Blue Devil girls coach, but a 3-1 school board vote reversed that decision a month later. The dissenting vote came from school board member Nancy Peterson, whose daughter Emma played for the Davis girls team. Nancy Peterson had lodged several complaints about Crawford with district administrators during the 2012-13 school year.
In August, Crawford held tryouts for the Devil girls’ 2013 seasons and Emma Peterson — who had played on the varsity squad as a sophomore and a junior — was the only returning player not to make the team.
This caused Emma’s dad Rob Peterson to file a complaint that led to a district investigation, conducted by attorney Alex Sperry. The Enterprise obtained a Dec. 17 letter in which Assistant Superintendent Matt Best laid out the findings of that investigation, among them Sperry’s assertion that Crawford’s action of cutting the player was in violation of Board Policy 1312.1, which “prohibits retaliation against a complainant who brings an oral or written complaint against a district employee.”
At a school board meeting on Thursday, the board voted 4-0 — Nancy Peterson recused herself — to hear Crawford’s appeal.
With that in the balance, the district went ahead with the hiring of the interim coaches, finally settling on Duer and Friend.
Note: At its next meeting this Thursday, the school board will spend some time talking about athletics and coaching. According to the meeting agenda, the board will “receive a brief presentation outlining the scope and depth of staff’s work on DJUSD Athletics Policies and Administrative Regulations.” The staff will present drafts of new guidelines for hiring temporary coaches and new administrative regulations for coaches. The full agenda can be seen online at http://www.djusd.net/agendas. The agenda also states the following: “Over the past 18 months there has been a great deal of attention to DJUSD athletics. The district and the Board of Education have a very strong interest in creating effective and transparent policies and procedures to govern athletics programming in the Davis Joint Unified School District. The primary areas for policy development and/or refinement are coach selection criteria/process, evaluation criteria/process, coach term of employment, role of the head coach — varsity, JV, frosh, role of the athletic director, the athletics complaint process, and coaches’ code of conduct.”
— Reach Chris Saur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8049.