Nick Strom has been fired as the head football coach at Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Strom alleges the reason for his dismissal is that he had too many black players on the team.
“I think this is from me not conforming with their viewpoints on what they want the student body and the football team to look like,” Strom told the Courier Post. “I’ve tried to build this program into one that’s based on kids being of ability, high character and high grades.
“From day one, the administration told me they did not approve of the ratio of black to white students.”
Strom told the paper the topic of race came up "10 to 20 times" in conversations with school president Mary Whipskey over his four seasons as head coach.
“When I’d have a list of potential freshmen, the first question I’d be asked is if they were white or black,” he said. “I was confused about why the question was, ‘How can we get more white players in the program or on the field?’”
The school has categorically denied such a reason for Strom's firing. According to a letter written on Friday, the school fired Strom -- who was also the school's golf coach and a history teacher -- for the following reasons:
After several meetings to discuss with your performance throughout the year, renewing your contract for 2018-2019 was made with reservation and hope that you would address these concerns in a positive manner. However, recent events that have occurred (after the preliminary contractual time period for notice of renewal) indicate that our optimistic expectations were ill-advised, and have led to my decision to not offer a contract for next year. These include, but are not limited to:
- Professional dress violations as stated in the faculty handbook;
- Disrespect to the President after being questioned on your professional dress;
- Leaving class early at the end of the day to prepare for golf;
- Leaving your class in the hallway and not providing instruction while you were (talking) to a college coach;
- Confronting again a faculty member in front of students; and
- Allowing students to leave your classroom in the middle of instruction and hang out in other areas of the school.
For his part, Strom said the stated reasons were bad-faith arguments means to cover up the true reason for his firing.
“If I’m finished with a test, kids will ask if they can go to the library or go to the AV Club or can they go work with teacher X, Y or Z who might be helping them. Every teacher in the country does this,” Strom said. “All of our bathrooms are locked. There aren’t kids just walking around the hallways. They’re doing schoolwork.
“None of this is remotely close to being egregious.”
It's clear Strom was not fired for his performance as the head football coach. Camden Catholic was 34-6 in Strom's four seasons, and 34-2 against fellow South Jersey schools.
Cases such as these are ugly, no-win situations for all involved. It's a literal he-said/she-said in which either Strom really is fired for non-compliance with school policy and egregiously slanders his bosses' character on the way out the door -- or he really was fired for having too many black players.