TOLEDO — School officials fired the head football coach last week, triggering sign-waving protests, a school walkout and a petition to rehire Steve Cragun.
Student athletes, parents and other supporters assailed the decision by Toledo High School officials to fire Cragun from the coaching job after he posted grades on a private chat group for football players. Cragun, who has been at Toledo for three years, retains his job as a physical education teacher.
“He’s really a great man and coach,” asserted Kelli McCuistion, parent of a Boomers football player who joined other parents and supporters at the entrance to Toledo H.S. at 7 a.m. on Monday while dozens of students rallied around a flagpole on campus. “They want their voices heard and to show support for Coach Cragun. We’re hoping the administrator will reevaluate the situation because it’s a huge loss.”
On Tuesday, scores of students walked out of classrooms at 9:30 a.m. to rally on the football field. By Tuesday afternoon, an online petition at change.org had collected about 600 signatures calling for Cragun’s reinstatement.
“It’s frustrating,” said junior Jaxon Rozweski, 16, the star quarterback. “He’s a great life-role model. He teaches us to be great and was helping us on our grades. This seems like overkill.”
The trouble started, asserted Rozewski, when Cragun posted the grades of football players on a Facebook site restricted to team members, reminding student athletes they needed five passing grades of seven overall to participate in sports. Cragun encouraged players to support each other and attend a noon study hall he organized.
“Some kids are struggling,” acknowledged Rozewski, who claimed a parent who saw the chat complained to school officials. “I was one of those with awful grades. Only the guys on the team could see it. He was just trying to help.”
Cameron Lonergan, 17, said Cragun was trying to build “a good G.P.A. team.”
“He’s a fantastic mentor who really changed lives,” he lamented. “Improving grades was important to him. He told us that everything starts in the classroom, that nothing is given to you and you have to earn everything in life.”
Toledo school officials and administrators at Lincoln Co. School District declined to comment on the matter. Questions sent to the district, including what policy was violated, went unanswered. A spokesperson for School Superintendent Dr. Karen Gray stated said she had nothing to say about the issue.
Cragun’s wife, however, had much on her mind in the wake of events that began last Wednesday when the coach was summoned by the school’s new athletic director, Bart Rothenberger.
“He wasn’t out to embarrass anybody, but to get everyone on the same page,” Carly Cragun reflected, saying her husband is prohibited from speaking on the matter. “He felt bad and deleted the page, but I guess that’s just not good enough. If the whole community is willing to forgive, why not the A.D. and principal?”
The dismissal came amid wholesale changes at Toledo H.S., including the arrival of a new athletic director, Rothenberger, and the departure after 14 years of Clint Raever, principal. A wide receiver and backup quarterback, Kemen Dorantes, 15, said the firing of Cragun has made for an uncertain future.
“He was a big part of the culture at Toledo High School, even outside of football,” commented Dorantes.