The Iowa Court of Appeals has reversed a northeast Iowa school board’s decision to fire its high school football coach. The Jesup school board voted to fire football coach Bruce Wall in 2008 after the school’s second straight winless season.
The board said it fired Wall because he was not an effective leader and failed to maintain student interest and participation in the football program. Wall had taken over as football coach in 2000 and took the team from winning one game to eight wins in 2003 and its first every playoff appearance. But the team won only six games over the next three seasons.
The athletic director expressed concern to Wall after a 54-0 loss in 2006 and asked him to do several things, including implementing a mandatory offseason weightlifting program. Wall responded that such a program was against the rules, but did create a program that offered awards for players who lifted. He said he had tried several things to get the players to lift in the offseason, but had little success.
The athletic director did not evaluate the program again until after the winless 2008 season, and that evaluation led to Wall’s firing. The Iowa Appeals court found that the goals for the program made no reference to win-loss records, and that appeared to be the reason for the firing. The court said coach Wall had taken actions to try and improve the program and meet the district’s stated goals, so there was no just cause for firing him.
Judge Mary Tabor dissented on the ruling, saying school boards should not be prohibited from using the number of team victories –or total lack thereof –as one means to gauge the effectiveness of a coach‘s leadership.
See the complete ruling here: Jesup coach ruling PDF