While the days following a win are normally a time for celebration, the mood quickly changed for the Pierce football program Monday when the coaches and players were informed of the terminations of head coach Jason Sabolic and defensive coordinator Torry Hughes.
Saturday’s home win against the Los Angeles Southwest College Cougars saw 14 personal fouls between the two teams, a player ejected from each side and a sideline penalty against a Brahmas assistant coach. Animosity between the two teams was obvious, and culminated in the Cougars foregoing the handshake following the game.
Athletic Director Moriah Van Norman stated that there had been a change in staff and declined further comment.
First-year assistant coach Lucas Melo is unsure of the specifics for the firing.
“There’s been some things that happened this year I’m not too sure about,” Melo said. “I guess there’s been some decorum violations, that’s what I keep hearing.”
Sabolic was shocked by the decision on his first infraction and receiving no formal writeups or any other disciplinary actions prior to the firing. According to Sabolic, the decision was made based on decorum violations reported at Saturday’s game.
“I was never shown the reports, they were all taken at face value,” Sabolic said.
According to Sabolic, the only specific violation he was made aware of was profanity, and that a “lack of control” was cited.
“We’re all at a loss,” Sabolic said. “But there’s really nothing you can do about it as an at-will employee. To be just dismissed like that after dealing with a lot of change., new athletic director, season coming up, no support. It’s difficult to swallow.”
Counselor Joseph Roberson, who works with the school’s athletes, said he was not aware of all the reasons for the move.
“I can most definitely say that the decision was made with the thought process that, long-term, it was in the best interest of the student athletes, the institution and adhering to the mission of the school,” Roberson said.
According to Hughes, it was actions at Saturday’s game that led to the change.
“Apparently at the game Saturday there were witnesses of behavior that wasn’t conducive to a college environment or wasn’t what the college wanted from a football coach,” Hughes said. “I just don’t understand why I was terminated at all. I was on my best behavior Saturday.”
The news caught coaches and players off-guard.
“I showed up to the facility at around 3 o’clock yesterday thinking we were about to get ready to go over film and all that stuff,” Melo said. “Next think you know, Sabolic comes in and tells us he’s been fired. After that went and told the kids.”
Players were noticeably upset upon hearing the news, and Melo and other coaches have been working damage control to keep the program rolling.
“There’s a lot of parents calling, a lot of kids concerned about the situation. But we’re going to move on,” Melo said. “These kids are here to get out. At the end of the day the assistant coaches are all here for the kids 100 percent.”
Vice-President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters could not comment on specifics for the decision.
“At this point in time we’re working on a transition plan,” Dixon-Peters said. “Our number one priority is to make sure the players are ok and this season continues with the least distractions as possible. We understand this is a huge distraction.”
According to Melo, he and assistant coach Dylan Flannery will take over defensive duties while John Austin will run the offense.
“There’s been talk about an interim but we’re not sure who that is yet,” Melo said. “The program moves on, everything keeps going. We have our toughest opponent probably of the year coming up this week against Southwestern, so we just gotta get ready and prepared.”