Eric Wells, who has more state bowling titles than any coach in Tennessee, is out of his job at St. Benedict on the heels of an “unsportsmanlike” incident that may have played a part in costing a rival school a trip to the state tournament.
In a Jan. 4 letter to Eagles athletic director Caleb Marcum , TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress outlines the circumstances that led to the school cutting ties with Wells, who coached the girls team to seven state titles and the boys team to four more while winning numerous coach of the year awards from The Commercial Appeal.
According to information submitted by St. Benedict, Wells along with assistants Johnny Cordera and Sally Fillion determined that a loss by the Eagles in a match against St. Mary’s would make it “difficult” for Briarcrest to advance to the state tournament.
During the 10th frame of the third game, two girls were substituted into the match, which the letter states “purposely positioned (St. Benedict) to lose to St. Mary’s so that Briarcrest could not control their own path to state and conspired to lose within the required margin of total pins to maintain our position as the No. 1 seed in our region.”
St. Benedict and St. Mary’s did indeed represent the West region in last week’s state tournament in Smyrna.
When reached for comment on Thursday, Wells disputed the contents of the TSSAA’s letter and said that his only goal was to prepare St. Benedict as best as possible for another trip to the state tournament. He added that the result of the match between the Eagles and St. Mary’s didn’t keep Briarcrest out of the state tournament.
Wells also denied that the incident played any part in his leaving the school, stating that he told St. Benedict officials prior to Christmas that he was leaving the program at the end of the season after accepting a new job in the business sector.
Childress called the incident “unsportsmanlike, unethical and dishonorable” and “behavior not in accordance with the spirit of fair play.” The school’s bowling program was also placed on probation for one calendar year beginning on Jan. 10 and fined $500.