For the second time in less than a year, Julie Crawford has been told by Davis High administrators that a Blue Devil volleyball team is no longer hers to coach.
The leader of the girls and boys programs for each of the past three seasons, Crawford coached the girls team this fall only after a school board vote in July to rehire her. That vote came nearly a month after she was told by DHS athletic director Dennis Foster that her variable services agreement would not be renewed.
Crawford’s VSA as boys coach was set to be renewed in January, but it never went to the school board for a vote. (Every other Devil spring coach was confirmed, along with new head football coach John Wiley, at a Jan. 23 school board meeting).
Tryouts were to begin this week.
Crawford said she was told that Davis High Principal Will Brown and Foster signed her VSA and that “it was pulled at the district level prior to the (Jan. 23) board meeting.”
Meanwhile, Davis school board president Gina Daleiden confirmed that “the board has not been briefed on this matter. We expect to receive information from the superintendent at the Feb. 20th meeting. At this point, this is all coming from the administration.”
Daleiden added that because this is a personnel matter, it would have to be discussed in a closed session — and that had not happened.
If the VSA truly was held up at the district level, The Enterprise could not find out by whom or why. Foster and Brown told The Enterprise on Monday that they could not comment on personnel issues, while an email to Davis schools personnel chief Matt Best and a call to Superintendent Winfred Roberson were not returned by midnight Monday.
Crawford wasn’t alerted until last Wednesday, less than a week before tryouts were set to begin on Monday, that she was not going to be asked back as boys coach.
“I was first told last Wednesday … by Will Brown, that I would not be coaching boys volleyball this season,” Crawford explained. “Since I have been the coach for the past three seasons, I just have taken on that role year-round, so yes, I was ready to go for Monday tryouts.
“I held two months of open gyms prior to the season … and the interest in the program was so great that I knew I would have enough boys to finally have varsity and JV teams. There are both JV and varsity schedules set in place and DHS is set to host an eight-team preseason jamboree (Feb. 25).”
Crawford added that when she realized there would be enough players for JV and varsity teams for the first time, she got approval from Foster — more than a month ago — to coach both squads.
But instead, a recent letter from Brown informed the families of boys volleyball players that “we have yet to identify a coaching staff for the 2014 season. As a result, we have posted these coaching positions and will be reviewing applications as they arrive.
“In the meantime,” the letter went on, “practices will be canceled until a coaching staff is identified.”
Blue Devil players and their families were shocked at the decision and the fact that it came less than a month before the scheduled opener, Feb. 28 at Pleasant Valley.
“I was initially dismayed because I couldn’t believe that (Crawford) was ‘fired’ once again,” said returning DHS junior Richard Lu, who has played volleyball for Crawford for three years. “She even conducted open gyms with us so I was positive she would remain as head coach. And of course, I was upset because the process of rehiring a coach will delay our season.”
Evan Meerscheidt, another returning junior, added, “I think it is ridiculous. Other (spring Devil) teams are starting tryouts and practice, while we are sitting here with our season up in the air.”
For her part, Crawford hopes something can be done to get her reinstated, as was the case last summer. At the school board meeting following her VSA as girls coach not being renewed, a group of supporters spoke out for Crawford and the trustees voted 3-1 to rehire her. Board members Sheila Allen, Susan Lovenburg and Daleiden voted in favor and Nancy Peterson dissented.
Trustee Tim Taylor, who participated in most of the discussion via conference call, was not on the line and did not vote.
“I am very disappointed and I just want to coach the kids,” Crawford said Monday. “I plan to continue to fight because I have done nothing wrong. My reputation is on the line. I love coaching and I love coaching DHS volleyball.
“These kids — both boys and girls programs — are worth the fight.”
Crawford, the 2012 Delta Valley Conference girls Coach of the Year when her team reached the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, took the Blue Devil girls back to the playoffs last November.
As the boys mentor, she earned the 2011 DVC Coach of the Year and followed that up by taking DHS to the postseason in 2012 and 2013.
In addition, Crawford made copies of all of her varsity coaching evaluations through spring 2013 available to The Enterprise and the athletic director had nothing but good things to say in those reports. She also added that she “received yet another positive coaching evaluation from the principal and the AD after this past girls season.”
And her players, it seems, would not be surprised to hear that.
“I like how (Crawford) is patient with the players because most of the (players on the 2013 boys squad) had never played the sport before,” Lu said. “(Crawford) is also incredibly cordial. I can speak on behalf of the players that we never felt uncomfortable. Our practices always had an encouraging and friendly atmosphere.”
Notes: Crawford is a full-time physical education teacher at DHS. She has been coaching volleyball in the area, mostly in the Blue Devil program, for the past eight years. … Daleiden said “Generally speaking, and this is something you’ve heard publicly at board meetings, we would like decisions made when it isn’t just before the start of the season. The timing is obviously not optimal, but like I said, we haven’t been briefed.” She added that “An item that is in front of the board, but has not yet been resolved, is that we are asking (Best) to look into some of the practices and policies with athletics. One of the things (Best) has been looking at is having coaches’ VSAs go for the whole year instead of just the season because we are seeing coaches working with kids year-round. (Changing) the VSA to a whole year would address the problem of timing, if a coach’s VSA isn’t renewed it wouldn’t happen right before the start of the season.”
— Reach Chris Saur at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8049. Thomas Oide contributed to this article.