*Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the last names of Wolfy Gaidis and Melina DeBona. This article has been updated to reflect the correct spellings.
students engaged in a demonstration Friday morning in opposition to the dismissal of football coach Sam Horrell.
The students held signs with the phrases “Bring back the coach,” “We want Horrell” and “Bring back coach Horrell.” They backed up the messages with chants of “bring back the coach” and “we want Horrell.”
Earlier this week, Clayton High officials self-reported violations of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) by-laws, a document provided by the states. The district took action “based on the results of a (lengthy) investigation into information that Horrell was involved in strength and conditioning workouts with eighth grade students who attend ,” the document states.
The document also states that “MSHSAA acknowledged that these actions were in violation of its by-laws and will make decisions on any necessary sanctions at its board meeting next month.”
Chris Tennill, communications director for Clayton schools, said the district made the decision to relieve Horrell based on the results of the investigation. He also said Horrell will continue to teach at Clayton High. Horrell “was respected as a coach by his players and as a teacher by his students," Tennill said.
“This was a tough decision for us to make,” he said. “But this is not one we made on an isolated incident. It was a decision we felt we had to make to maintain the integrity of our athletic programs.”
The students involved in the demonstration gathered at approximately 10 a.m. and dispersed 15 minutes later. Horrell made an appearance five minutes into demonstration. He encouraged the demonstrators to return to class and also said he wasn’t able to comment on his dismissal.
Under Horrell’s leadership, the Clayton Greyhounds went 8-4 and qualified for the playoffs in the 2010 season. Horrell said he started coaching at Clayton High 11 years ago and had spent the last six years as head coach.
Senior quarterback Chase Haslett said he organized the demonstration. Haslett also said he will attend the University of Illinois next year on a football scholarship.
“He (Horrell) bleeds more blue and orange than anyone in this school,” Haslett said. “He’s a great guy, and there’s no reason for him to be fired.”
Senior football player Wolfy Gaidis* also attended the demonstration.
“We’re very, very upset right now,” Gaidis* said. “He’s one of the most influential people at this school, and he’s been demoted. We don’t like it. He’s had such a big impact on us. He made sure I had a family when I didn’t feel like I had a family. He’s put so much into this school.”
Clayton High senior Melina DeBona*, a volleyball and soccer player, said Horrell was her climbing and physical education teacher. DeBona* called Horrell “a nice person who cares about students.”
Clayton athletic director Bob Bone could not be reached for comment.