File under: The weird gets weirder.
Last week, we brought you the strange saga of a state championship-winning New Mexico high school boys’ basketball coach who had been suspended from the program for allegations that included his disciplinary tactics and a team prayer prior to the state title game.
The news followed nearly a decade of strange stories surrounding Española Valley boys basketball coach Richard Martinez, including rumors a fan shot his dog with a bow and arrow, someone set his house on fire, a firing/rehiring and allegations he slapped a female student.
Now, believe it or not, the tale gets even more bizarre.
Española superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez fired Martinez — and then resigned hours later. While Gutierrez planned to remain in her position during a 30-day grace period, the school board voted 3-2 to place her on leave effective immediately, per the Albuquerque Journal.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Public Education Department launched an investigation into “serious potential ethical and criminal misconduct” by Martinez, according to KOB 4 News. Allegations included verbal and mental abuse by the coach, according to the TV news station.
The completed investigation, which has been made available to Martinez, reportedly found him in violation of six different areas related to his employment as an athletics coach for the district. Among the violations, the district source says Martinez was found to have violated board policy, state and federal law, and New Mexico administrative code. Specifics of the allegations were not made public Thursday, and remain sealed.
Gutierrez’ resignation came as some Española community members vehemently backed Martinez and questioned the decision to investigate the successful coach, according to reports. Now, there’s some question as to whether Martinez could return to the bench, since the superintendent who fired him is no longer in place, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Oh, and don’t worry, things get weirder.
Española Valley football coach Miguel Medina also resigned, according to KOB 4 News. He was seen at the school board meeting holding a sign reading, “If she goes, I go,” according to Santa Fe New Mexican Sports, and he apparently put his money where his mouth was.
“I think when a person does their job, and what Bobbie was paid to do — to investigate that — and we don’t back her up … what are we saying?” Medina told KOB 4. “That we’re allowing it and we’re going to sweep it under the rug? That’s why I resigned. I’m not going to be part of an institution that allows that.”
“I saw what she was doing, the programs she was installing to try to rectify things. That needed to be done. And then for us to kind of hang her out to dry.”
“We have a school that’s graduating one in two students — a 55 percent graduation rate. That should be the real issue here. That’s somebody’s career, that’s someone’s good name. And why? I’m not ashamed; I’m not afraid of what I’m saying but I think a lot of people are afraid to step up.”
So, to recap: 1) a prep basketball coach won a state championship, 2) his superintendent suspended him for misconduct during said state title run, 3) the state’s department of education investigated and discovered six examples of such misconduct, 4) the superintendent fired the coach, 5) the community rallied behind the coach, 6) the superintendent resigned, 7) the football coach rallied behind the superintendent and also resigned 8) the basketball coach could get his job back.
Nothing to see here, folks. Just your run-of-the-mill school board meeting.