Football coach says he believed he was upfront with administrators regarding incident that may have led to dismissal.
With the official start of practice for the 2015 season set for Aug. 3, Jeffersonville’s football program is reeling following the sudden dismissal of head coach Lonnie OIdham on Thursday afternoon.
Former Jeffersonville assistant coach Alfonzo Browning was named interim coach for the upcoming season.
Oldham, who coached the Red Devils for four seasons, said he was informed of the decision during a meeting with athletic director Todd Satterly and principal Julie Straight. Oldham was presented a letter from Greater Clark County Schools superintendent Dr. Andrew Melin that outlined the reasons for his termination, but he declined to reveal the letter’s contents.
Erin Bojorquez, supervisor of communications for GCCS, refused to comment on the issues that sparked the firing, citing it as a personnel matter.
However, Oldham believed the dismissal may have stemmed from an incident during a recent road trip, and he did discuss that event.
On Saturday night, during a team trip to Dalton, Ga., for a 7-on-7 tournament, five players left the team hotel after curfew. Oldham, one of the six adults who accompanied the 27 players on the trip, said he reported the incident to Satterly on Sunday morning. Four days later, before meeting with the school officials, Oldham started receiving phone calls to inform him of his termination.
“I was never questioned by anyone,” Oldham said. “The only time I talked about what happened was when I self-reported the incident on Sunday morning to my athletic director. After Sunday, I was not contacted or asked any other questions about it. I was never questioned about anything by anyone from the administration in the Greater Clark County school system. No one talked with me.
“I’m just dumbfounded. To say that I was shocked is an understatement. I never thought, in a million years, they would let me go over something like this, and never be questioned.”
Oldham said the letter he was presented listed five paragraphs of reasons for his firing. He called the majority of the items “non-factual.”
On the field, Oldham was successful. He went 27-16 in four years, and the Devils went 8-2 in 2014. Oldham took over for Bob Redman (who went 1-9 in his only season in 2011) and never had a losing season. Jeffersonville went 8-4 and reached the Class 5-A sectional final in 2012. Jeffersonville now competes in Class 6-A.
Oldham’s teams set school records for scoring (35.7 points per game during his tenure) with his pass-first offensive scheme. He is fifth in school history for career wins.
Off the field, Oldham was suspended for one game in 2012 for allowing two academically ineligible players to participate in a scrimmage.
The timing of the change puts pressure on the program. The Red Devils open the 2015 season on Aug. 21 at Pulaski County (Ky).
“The program is in great shape,” Oldham said. “It’s in way better shape than when I inherited it. We were looking forward to an exciting season. We thought we would have just as good of a team, if not better, than we had last year.
“I don’t know if I will ever coach again. It’s just a shame, a shame all the way around.”
Browning, an assistant coach for eight years under former head coaches Steve Cooley, Redman and Oldham, is a former University of Kentucky receiver. He had departed the Jeff program earlier in the spring to take an assistant’s role with Louisville Central, but he was called for an emergency meeting with Satterly and offered the interim coaching position.
“Coach Browning was the logical choice,” Satterly said. “Contrary to anyone’s opinion, we truly want the best for our kids. He was at the top of the list, with the timing and the seamless transition. He’s incredibly knowledgeable. He understands the system.
“For our kids, it was vital that we have them understand we’re going to support them. The best way to do that was to make sure we had somebody they were comfortable with.”
After the 2015 season, Satterly said the administration would conduct a complete interview process to hire a permanent head coach.
“We will open it up,” Satterly said. “Coach Browning understands that, it is an interim tag. We will do the entire process that we would for any coaching vacancy.”
Justin Sokeland can be followed on Twitter at @golfguru55.