Akron Beacon Journal (OH)

March 14, 1997
Section: METRO
Edition: 1 STAR
Page: B1

COVENTRY FOOTBALL COACHES QUIT \ HEAD COACH, TWO AIDES SAY SMALL RACIST FACTION, WEAK BOARD MAKE JOB 'UNBEARABLE'
COLETTE M. JENKINS, Beacon Journal staff writer

In a move that he called "taking a stand," Coventry High School head football coach Maurice "Mo" Tipton resigned yesterday, along with offensive coordinator Leonard D. Hartman and defensive coordinator Mike Hallet.

 

"We have a great bunch of kids here at Coventry that we've had an opportunity to work with. And we appreciate the support we've gotten from faculty and community members," Tipton said. "We hated to have to take these steps, but we felt it was necessary."

Tipton said all three submitted resignations yesterday to Superintendent Gerald Wargo, who could not be reached to comment.

The resignations come amid an investigation into allegations that a senior football player and assistant football coach (who is Hartman's brother) shot two football players in the buttocks with a BB gun, but Tipton said the BB-gun controversy is not the cause of the resignations.

In a memo to Wargo and the Coventry Local school board, the coaches cited two primary reasons for leaving the football program.

"1.) A small, disgruntled and racist faction within the community, who wish to control coaching staff's decisions by undermining the staff and administration at Coventry High School. This group, motivated by self-interest and who hold their own personal vendettas above the betterment and continued success of the school and the football program, have made coaching football at Coventry unbearable.

"2) A school board who's (sic) majority members have become weak, inefficient, unprofessional and unwilling or unable to deal with a controlling minority group. Members of this board seem to be motivated by political gain and public recognition, rather than the educational and athletic progression at Coventry High School."

Tipton, who has coached the football team for three years, said he has not decided whether he will resign from his post as athletic director.

He said the school board has allowed a small group of people to continually criticize and harass the football staff over decisions on who should start and at what positions.

"These disgruntled parents feel their kids should be playing on first team or in other positions, but that is a decision for coaches to make, not parents," Tipton said. "And the school board seems to be inefficient in stopping the harassment.

"Some of these same parents seem to have a problem with players who are minorities," Tipton said. "We're coaches. We don't recognize race on the field. We recognize skill."

Tipton said those parents do not reflect the attitude of the overall Coventry community.

Board supportive

School board President Richard P. Kutuchief, who had not officially received the memo, said the statements about the board are unfounded and stunning.

"The board has never taken a position against the coaching staff. We've had no occasion to," Kutuchief said. "In fact, we've been proud of our achievements and accomplishments this past season.

"No coach has ever told me about any small, disgruntled, racist group that has made coaching unbearable."

Kutuchief said the board expected to hear coaches' concerns tomorrow during its retreat.

"It's unfortunate that these coaches have made these conclusions without talking to us as a board," Kutuchief said. "I can assure you that there is no controlling minority where the board is concerned. We have a duty to make decisions based on what is best for the district, not by what's popular or by some vocal demand."

Tipton's coaching career spans three decades. In that time, he served as head football coach at Orville and Archbishop Hoban high schools.

Both Hartman and Hallet were hired at Coventry in 1994.

Hallet teaches social studies, and Hartman teaches English. Neither has decided whether he will give up his teaching position.

Hartman's brother, Leon D. Hartman (also an assistant football coach) was suspended with pay earlier this month after he was charged with several misdemeanors for his alleged involvement in a BB-gun shooting in the high school locker room after a practice in October.

Trial pending

Leon D. Hartman is charged with assault, child endangering and obstructing official business because police say he asked students to lie about what happened when questioned by investigators. He has pleaded innocent to all charges and a trial is pending in Barberton Municipal Court.

Also charged is James Harrison, a star senior linebacker and running back. Harrison has pleaded innocent to misdemeanor assault and a pretrial is scheduled for April 9. Harrison, 18, has received a full scholarship from Kent State University.

An investigation by the Summit County Sheriff's Department indicated that Harrison brought a BB gun into the locker room and shot one football player in the buttock. Hartman took the gun from Harrison and shot another player in the buttock, then gave the gun back to Harrison, police said.


Illustration:PHOTO: MIKE CARDEW / Beacon Journal: photo of Mo Tipton

Mo Tipton, Coventry High head football coach since 1994.

 


Copyright (c) 1997 Akron Beacon Journal