A longtime New Hampshire high school wrestling coach’s sudden death has drawn additional scrutiny after an anonymous letter that criticized the way he behaved around female teenagers was brought to light Monday.
As reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader, Jason Cumming was discovered dead at his home April 11. Officials have ruled his death to be unattended, and there is no suspicion of foul play. Officials will not be able to determine the expected cause of death for some time, though suicide has neither been confirmed nor ruled out.
Cumming, who served as the Central High School (Manchester, N.H.) wrestling coach and founder of the wrestling program at the Manchester Police Athletic League (MPAL), among other scholastic athletic achievement, was pushed to resign from the MPAL after a critical letter to the organization admonished the coach for pushing the mother of one of his female wrestlers to serve as a chaperone for a fall tournament to Cornell in New York in fall 2018.
While the mother did attend the trip, she claims she refused to be considered a chaperone, which left Cumming as the lone adult responsible for two young female wrestlers on the trip.
The author of the letter claimed that a number of parents suspected Cumming was grooming female student athletes for future sexual relationships, though they did not offer direct proof that he had engaged in grooming actions.
“I do know his actions crossed the line as far as being a high school coach and volunteer coach,” the mother who wrote the damaging letter told the Union Leader.
While the letter in question raised concerns about Cumming’s coaching comportment, the Union Leader quoted numerous families and former athletes connected with the coach who spoke to the influence he had on their lives and wrestling careers.
“I’ve never seen a more welcoming coach,” Matt Nhoury of Haverhill, whose daughter was invited to wrestle with a Cumming team, told the Union Leader. “Always interested in how things were going with her in and off the mat. Just a tremendous person with a great spirit.”
Added Shandria Waters, whose daughters trained with Cumming: “One of the most amazing coaches I’ve ever had. We will miss him more than anything. Jason was very black and white with everyone. He was very blunt, but he was never degrading at all.”
An Air Force veteran, Cumming continues to be investigated by Manchester Police, who insist that his relationship with the MPAL will not have any impact in the ongoing investigation into his actions. Meanwhile, they have stressed that the investigation into his actions is not a criminal one.