Last Month (Nov. 15), I wrote how Corbett Middle School football Coach Randy Burbach (pictured), over the objections from school officials, took his team to a local Hooters restaurant and bar for an end-of-season celebration.
After learning of the location in advance, Corbett School District Athletic Director Jean-Paul Soulagnet asked Burbach to change the location. When he refused, Soulagnet sent a letter to parents informing them that the celebration at Hooters would not be a school-sanctioned event. Soulagnet said that “three or four” families complained about the site. After Hooters hosted the event for the team, Soulagnet announced that Burbach would not be returning to coach next year.
One reader of this site wrote asking a few questions not covered in any of the media’s reporting; questions the reader and her friends felt were essential in order to more fully understand the background.
I agreed, and contacted District Athletic Director Soulagnet for his comments on the following:
– When were you informed that the event would take place at Hooters?
– When and how did the parents find out about the event?
– How soon before the event did you learn of parent complaints about the location?
– What is the protocol for school-sanctioned events?
Director Soulagnet responded via e-mail:
“My Booster President told me that he had heard about the planning of the event from a concerned parent on October 31st, late that evening (10 days prior to event). I left a phone message and e-mail with two of the coaches that evening. In that message, I told them that I had heard a rumor about the location and was just getting in contact with them so that they could clear the rumor and let me know they had planned it for another location. I heard from a few more parents over the weekend that the event was actually planned to be at Hooters and that it was not just a rumor.
“I called the head coach [Randy Burbach] Sunday evening and asked him if he could do me a favor and his reply was ‘Maybe.’ I asked him if he would please change the location of the event. I gave him some local options that might be better for everyone. He flat out said, ‘No!’ He did not care about all of his players and families being together and feeling comfortable about the location. This was about him and nobody was going to tell him where he could hold the event.
“I was told that most of the parents found out about the location Wednesday, October 30th after the boys final game of the season. I was also told that the coach asked the boys where they would like to go for their end-of-season function early in the season, and many commented with relatively normal replies of a local pizza place or restaurant. I was told that the coach suggested Hooters and many of the boys thought that would be a good place to go. Not sure if they were instructed to tell their parents at that time or not.
“I’ve been the Athletic Director here at Corbett for 15-plus years and in the athletic department for the 20 that I have been working in education. Normal protocol has been to hold end-of-season events at local restaurants: i.e. pizza places, Mongolian Grill, or some kind of potluck held up at the school. We have never had anybody come remotely close to having one of these events at a questionable location. It has never been an issue because most of our coaches understand that their responsibility as an adult in charge of young children is to never put them or their families in compromising situations.
“The coach was given ample time to make the necessary changes and refused on the principle of sticking up for what he believed in, standing his ground, (sticking it to the man?). He also mentioned a ‘coming of age’ event as well. He is used to getting his own way and did not like being told that he could not hold the event at Hooters. He owns his own business and does very well financially. He bought the entire team lettermen’s jackets that the boys were wearing when they went to Hooters and has since bought them hooded sweatshirts.
“Many people were concerned that he was going to lose his livelihood by being let go from coaching. Not to worry for poor old Mr. Burbach. Truth be told, I’m fairly certain he was not planning on coaching next year as his nephew will be moving up into the High School ranks as a freshman
“Hope this answers your questions. We are not puritans up on the hill here. Given the situation again we would handle it the same way, 100 out of the next 100 times. As a school district and athletic program there is no other approach.”
It seems apparent from the e-mail that there likely was past friction between Coach Burbach and school officials, possibly including Director Soulagnet himself. It is also apparent that Burbach did not first check with Soulagnet or school officials about where the end-of-season celebration would take place, nor had he informed all of the team’s parents. Even after the director informed the coach of several parent complaints and asked him to change the location seven days before the event, Burbach declined.
Based on this additional information I can only conclude that Coach Burbach appeared less interested in the reaction by parents, school officials, even those team members who were not in attendance, and more interested in maintaining his personal decision no matter the cost.
A school coach is much more than a coach. He’s a teacher and role model for student athletes. While sportsmanship and fair play are important on the field, conduct off the field is more important, even at the cost of one’s own personal wishes.