During a special meeting of the Wellston City Schools Board of Education on Monday evening, it was declared that Wellston High School boys basketball coach Jim Derrow has — among other things — been suspended without pay for the remainder of his supplemental contract to coach basketball.
WELLSTON — During a special meeting of the Wellston City Schools Board of Education on Monday evening, it was declared that Wellston High School boys basketball coach Jim Derrow has — among other things — been suspended without pay for the remainder of his supplemental contract to coach basketball.
Derrow’s suspension has been learned to be a direct result of a recruiting violation.
A letter dated Dec. 11, 2008 from Associate Commissioner for the Ohio High School Athletic Association Dr. Deborah B. Moore was sent to Wellston City Schools Superintendent Lee Kaple further describing this violation.
This letter states that there was “reliable, probative and substantial evidence that a student was influenced to transfer to Wellston High School by basketball coach James Derrow, which is a violation of Bylaws 4-9-2 and 4-9-4. It has been established that the student did indeed visit Wellston High School on at least two occasions during the 2007-08 school year, arrangements for which were not approved by the principal of Wellston High School and were in fact promoted by Coach Derrow. Therefore, the student shall be ineligible at Wellston High School for one year from his date of enrollment at the school in accordance with Bylaw 4-9-10.”
The OHSAA’s decision does not preclude the student’s transfer to another school — if he is able to meet any of the exceptions to the transfer bylaw 4-7-2.
This letter also states, “We find that Coach Derrow was actively involved in this recruiting violation and that his actions have discredited Wellston High School.”
The OHSAA mentions in the letter that the “Wellston High School boys basketball team shall be denied the opportunity to participate in the 2009 OHSAA boys basketball tournament series” and that “Wellston High School is fined $2,500 to be paid no later than Jan. 5, 2009.”
However, the OHSAA stated that it would be willing to remove these penalties should the Board take the following actions:
• Coach Derrow be suspended from (basketball) coaching, which is defined as any contact with students in training, practices, open gyms, conditioning and contact in games including sitting on the bench, entering the locker room and/or traveling with the team to contests. This suspension is for the remainder of the interscholastic season 2008-2009. In addition, Derrow shall have no contact with Wellston High School basketball players from June 1 through July 31 during the permissible 10 days of coaching contact.
• Coach Derrow shall be placed on five years probation during which time if any violations of the recruiting bylaw or any violations of sports regulations are discovered, the aforementioned sanctions against Wellston High School shall be reinstated and the school’s membership in the Association shall be in jeopardy.
• All students who transfer into Wellston High School who participate in any program for which Coach Derrow is a coach, paid or volunteer, must be approved in advance by the OHSAA.
As it was, Derrow had two possible courses of action during Monday’s meeting: Option A, whereby Derrow would voluntarily agree to the terms; or Option B, which entailed Derrow refusing to enter into the agreement voluntarily.
Both options would have resulted in the removal of the fine and ineligibility of the Wellston High School boys basketball team in OHSAA tournament play, and would have resulted in the same three penalties for Derrow as well.
Derrow choosing Option B, however, would have suggested his innocence in the matter.
The meeting began at 7:30 p.m. with the recognition of a quorum and the roll call.
Directly after the call to order, a motion was made by Gretchen Crabtree to enter into executive session to investigate charges against an employee, with action to follow.
The motion was seconded by Dr. Joe Essman, and after a vote, the meeting entered executive session at 7:31 p.m.
During the executive session, which lasted nearly two hours, Derrow and Wellston Teachers Association President Belinda Dixon were summoned into the conference several times.
When the board came out of executive session at 9:26 p.m., Derrow did not return to the meeting.
Wellston City School Board President Don Walton then proposed the adoption of Option B.
A motion was made by Essman, and seconded by Crabtree.
During the vote, Essman voted yes, Crabtree voted yes, Vice President Roger Rader voted no, Terry Gill voted no and Walton voted yes.
And so, in a 3-2 decision, the penalties against Derrow were made official.
Prior to the official vote, Board member Essman made some comments regarding the decision.
Said Essman, “It’s a tough, tough situation. We have to work with the findings of the OHSAA whether we agree with them or not.”
Essman continued, “We are forced to choose between money and punishing kids, and punishing the coach. It’s not in my nature to punish the kids.”
Comments were also made by community members present at the meeting.
Rachel Sharp said “I think by punishing the coach, you are punishing the kids.”
Sharp, who is the mother of Slone Cales — a senior on the Wellston boys basketball team — expressed her belief that if the current players would have had a say in the matter, they would have chosen to keep Coach Derrow.
Linda Clark, who is the mother of Wellston assistant coach Jamie Lambert, also expressed her opinion.
Said Clark, “Think of the hours Jim has put in. This is not fair to the coach, not fair to the kids and not fair to the people of Wellston.”
Following the adjournment of the meeting, the Jackson County Times-Journal had an opportunity to speak with three of the board members.
One of those members, Dr. Essman, was asked if any follow-ups are to be expected in this matter.
Said Essman, “To the best of my knowledge, there are no avenues of appeal.”
Essman also stated that there was no opportunity presented to the board to defend Coach Derrow.
“We did not judge Mr. Derrow, the OHSAA did,” concluded Essman.
Gill, one of the two board members who voted in opposition to the resolution, said “I do recognize and respect the board’s views.”
Gill felt, however, that “there were too many inconsistencies within the ruling” from the OHSAA.
Gill also mentioned that Derrow did not have the opportunity to speak for himself on the matter until the last possible day, by which time — he felt — “minds had already been made up.”
Gill concluded his statement by saying, “(Derrow) has been around for 28 years and should have been treated with greater respect by the OHSAA.”
Derrow did not coach the Golden Rockets on Friday night against Alexander, a 73-41 loss.
Lambert led the Golden Rockets in the interim.
The Wellston staff this season includes Lambert, assistant coach Rick McNelly, junior varsity coach Brant Derrow, and assistant junior varsity coaches Jordan Lackey and Robert Fouty.
Brant Derrow is the son of Jim Derrow.
The current suspension is the first of Derrow’s career which was not the result of an ejection from a game.
He has been the Golden Rockets’ bench boss for the past 22 seasons, and began his 23rd as the head coach on Dec. 5.
He also coached the team last Tuesday night, when Wellston won 73-37 over Ohio Valley Christian.
It was the 271st win of Derrow’s veteran head coaching career, which began with the 1986-87 season.
Wellston is scheduled to host Hannan (W. Va.) tonight in a non-league game.
There will be no reserve game, with tipoff time set for 7:30 p.m.