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Three pieces of advice: Tell the truth, tell the truth, and tell the truth

tell the truth

An Ohio high school and its prospective head football coach found itself in a bath of hot water recently, and it all could have been so easily avoided.

Here's the story: last month Fairborn (Ohio) High School hired Britton Devier as its head football coach, then turned a quick about face after it was discovered Devier was a defendant in a federal law suit following a hazing incident at a 2013 practice while he was the head coach at Woodmore (Ohio) High School.

According to the Dayton Daily News:

The Sprinski family alleged that the Sept. 10, 2013, practice started without padding due to 90-plus degree temperatures. After more than an hour, Devier allegedly ordered players to change into full uniforms and return within eight minutes.

Of the 45 players, 10 or fewer returned within that time frame. Others, including the plaintiff’s son, showed up afterward, the suit said. Coach Bringman ordered players who showed up on time to tackle those who didn’t and ordered the latecomers not to defend themselves, the suit said.

The plaintiff’s son was tackled and “driven to the ground, where the back of his head (struck) the compacted dirt surface.” Later, the player was confused, disoriented and vomited before collapsing, the suit alleged. A trainer did not call for an ambulance, but did call the Sprinskis, who transported their son to a hospital.

The suit said the boy’s injuries are permanent and that because of the coaches’ misconduct, their son “will require additional and costly long-term medical care and treatment.”

The case was settled out of court and Devier returned to coaching (Devier was formally dismissed as party by the presiding judge), spending the 2015 season as the offensive coordinator at Smith's Station (Alabama) High School before landing the Fairborn job.

And, really, saying Fairborn officials discovered Devier's involvement in the suit requires a generous set of air quotes, because they only became aware of the situation after it was brought to their attention on social media after he was announced as the hire.

“We basically Google searched it and what was on Google … that’s when we realized it probably wasn’t going to be a good match for Fairborn,” Gayheart said. “And, in truth, we need to do our homework better. The first priority would be to Google search any candidate like that.”

Yeah, I would say that's a fair assessment. One would assume speaking to officials from previous jobs would be the absolute least a high school would do in hiring a leadership position, but one would be wrong. Had Fairborn done that during the process, they could have opened a line of dialogue that, at the very least, would have avoided this entire situation in the first place.

But Fairborn's officials aren't the only ones who stepped into an avoidable puddle.

From my reading of the story, it appears Devier didn't bring up the incident and the subsequent lawsuit during his interview process. This allowed the story to get in front of him, instead of the other way around.

If the accusations were untrue (and, to be clear, we are not privy to the facts of the case at all), Devier could have explained why they were untrue. And if they were true, Devier missed an opportunity to own up to a mistake and explain lessons A, B, and C he learned from the episode while detailing reasons X, Y and Z it would never, ever happen again.

Perhaps a forthcoming, honest conversation wins the Fairborn brass over, and they're convinced the Woodmore incident turned Devier into a better leader. Perhaps it doesn't. But either way it avoids the worst-case scenario, which is exactly what played out: with Devier looking for work while combating a fresh set of headlines and Fairborn looking for its third head coach in four months.

Update:

After the story went live, Devier reached out to us and shared a number of facts we were previously unaware of, primarily that he did just about prescribed above. Devier said he made Fairborn officials aware of the suit from the get-go, that he was dismissed as party of the suit, and that Fairborn was comfortable with the situation.

An email from superintendent Terry Riley to a school board member obtained by the Dayton Daily News corroborates that.

“We have vetted him very heavily and continue to check and double check our references. … There is one negative mark if you do a Google search regarding a lawsuit which was subsequently dropped. It was a situation in which a student got hurt but did not say anything to the coach or position coach. He then went home and the parents took him to the hospital where he spent the night.

“Britton was named in the suit because he was head coach, but the parents were really after the position coach. Per the superintendent of that school, whose son was also on the team, Britton was named only because he was head coach. The suit was dropped. Lots of kudos for Britton from this particular superintendent.”

After the hiring went public and links about the Woodmore suit made the rounds on social media, Deiver says, Riley did an about face and Gayheart offered the "we needed to Google it" quote. Strange all around.

Kudos to Deiver for playing the situation the right way.

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