A longtime high school water polo coach in San Diego is back on the job after his administrative suspension lapsed when a teen accusing him of inappropriate contact failed to escalate a lawsuit to a higher court.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, the case of Coronado water polo coach Randy Burgess is a particularly controversial and confusing one. The 59-year-old was placed on administrative leave in April after a claim was filed with the Coronado School District claiming Burgess had inappropriately contacted a middle school student in 2011.
When Burgess was placed on leave, Coronado officials said he would return to work at the conclusion of an internal investigation into his case. There has been no announcement that any such investigation concluded, yet Burgess is now back on the job. The reason for his return, at least publicly, was the original claimant’s failure to escalate his lawsuit against Burgess and the district to superior court.
From an administrative standpoint, that failure essentially ended the lawsuit against Burgess. It did not exonerate him. The brief comment offered up by Burgess when asked about his status by the Union-Tribune speaks to that bizarre duality; in effect, Burgess is being treated professionally as if he has been cleared of all charges, but public opinion is almost certain to feel otherwise.
“I don’t look at it as a victory,” Burgess told the Union-Tribune. “I look at it as a step in the right direction…There’s still a lot of things I’ve got to overcome.”
There is no question that Burgess has numerous supporters, just as he has throughout the ordeal. A Facebook group called “We Stand With Ricky” has more than 800 followers. More than 1,200 signed a petition demanding Burgess be reinstated. Now they’re apparently getting their wish, which means Coronado is getting back one of the state’s best coaches, though he won’t be returning on his own terms.
“The letter felt cold and it felt callous,” Burgess told the Union-Tribune regarding a letter appended to his personnel file regarding the allegations. “My biggest concern now is that I’m going to be scrutinized for something I didn’t do or punished for fighting back against an unfair suspension.”
Among other terms of Burgess’ reinstatement is a request that he not be alone with any students unless absolutely necessary. That request in particular rubbed Burgess the wrong way, helping inspire the coach and his legal team to appeal the judge’s original decision which gave the accused additional time to file the case in state Superior Court.
“All they care about is whether there’s a case against them,” Burgess’ attorney Matthew Herron told the Union-Tribune. “They were not looking to find out whether he was culpable. They were just running out the clock on us.”