You are the athletic director of a middle school whose football team just finished a winning season. You just learned that the coach wants to celebrate by taking the entire team to… the local Hooters restaurant to celebrate. What do you do?
Well, if you’re Corbett School District Athletic Director Jean-Paul Soulagnet, you send a letter to parents informing them that the end-of-the-season party at Hooters will not be a school-sanctioned event.
According to a report by The Associated Press (Nov. 5), “Soulagnet also fired Coach Randy Burbach for refusing to choose a more appropriate location.”
“I asked him to change it because I want the kids to enjoy their season,” Soulagnet said. “If there are one or two kids not going to come because they’re not comfortable or their parents are not comfortable, then we need to change it.”
Soulagnet said “three or four” families complained about the location.
That should have ended the controversy right there. Not for Coach Burbach. In an interview with local Oregon station KATU, Burbach defended his choice.
“I just went to the Oregon State game, and I will tell you that cheerleaders are dressed more scantily than they are at Hooters,” Burbach said. “We thought we were going to a family sports bar, which I still contend is a family sports bar. They allow kids in their 24-hours a day. I think the people who have objected need to do a little research or give me a call.”
“Burbach told Reuters that his team overwhelmingly chose Hooters in September as the destination for the party, and that he wasn’t notified until Sunday that anyone had complained about the venue.”
“I think there are better locations,” Soulagnet said. “When the term Hooters is thrown out there, what comes to mind is scantily clad young ladies who wear tight shorts and tight shirts. I think there are more appropriate places to take middle school boys.”
Burbach’s response: “I’ve spent this whole season teaching these kids that if you get knocked down, stand up and fight. That’s why I refuse to move the venue at the 11th hour.”
The coach went on to explain that had parents brought their concerns to him several weeks ago, he would have compromised, but that it was too late to change. Burbach said that he had taken his sons to the restaurant when they were 12 and that it had been a “positive experience.”
Soulagnet sent out a letter to parents informing them that the school would not pay for the party at Hooters. “Hooters is known worldwide for a number of things,” Soulagnet said, “and I don’t think food is one of them.”
As a result of Burbach’s refusal to change the venue, Soulagnet felt that the only responsible thing was to fire the coach.
Burbach’s response: “Yes, this is worth losing my coaching job over.”
In a statement, Hooters responded: “The Corbett Middle School football players, coaches and their families have earned the right to celebrate a successful, hard-fought season. This Saturday, Nov. 9, Hooters is picking up the tab for an awesome end-of-season football party to honor the team’s gridiron success. To top it all off, Hooters will donate $1,000 along with 20 percent of Saturday’s Jantzen Beach location sales to the Corbett Booster Club so that the entire community can join in celebrating the team’s winning season.”
Sorry, Randy, you could have avoided a lot of grief if you had discussed your plans with the team’s parents as well as school officials before making a final decision. When it comes to appropriateness for middle-school kids, there is no 11th hour cut-off.