Volleyball coach fighting for job against school board member whose daughter was cut from the team

Ben Rohrbach
February 14, 2014
Davis (Calif.) High boys' and girls' volleyball coach Julie Crawford
Julie Crawford is fighting for her job as boys' and girls' volleyball coach at Davis (Calif.) High. (The Davis Enterprise)

The battle between a California prep volleyball coach and a school board member whose daughter was cut from the team is playing out in a public drama, and the student-athletes are now suffering from it.

Davis (Calif.) High boys' and girls' volleyball coach Julie Crawford has been relieved of her duties for the second time in a year following complaints from school board member Nancy Peterson and her husband Rob, whose son and daughter have played for Crawford's teams, according to The Davis Enterprise

And for the second time in eight months Crawford has a chance to get her job back, as the Davis school board -- minus Nancy Peterson, who reportedly recused herself from voting after another public outcry of support for the coach --  voted 4-0 to grant Crawford an appeal, The Enterprise reported.

According to reports, Nancy Peterson logged several complaints against Crawford during the Fall 2012 season, when Emma Peterson was a junior outside hitter for a Blue Devils team that finished 23-8 and reached the district quarterfinals. In June 2013, Crawford was told she would not be rehired.

However, the community reportedly rushed to Crawford's defense, and the school boad ultimately voted 3-1 to reinstate the coach for the Fall 2013 season. Peterson allegedly was the lone descenting vote.

In August 2013, Emma Peterson was cut from the girls' volleyball team, and her father Rob filed a complaint believing the roster decision was made out of retaliation, according to The Enterprise. A look at the rosters in 2012 and 2013 shows Emma Peterson was one of four underclassmen from last year's team not to play for the Blue Devils this past fall. Her 2012 statistics are available on MaxPreps.

The school district completed an investigation into the incident in late November, concluding, "more likely than not, Coach Crawford's decision to cut Emma Peterson from the varsity volleyball team was influenced, at least in part, by Coach Crawford's feelings about Nancy Peterson," according to a letter from Davis assistant superintendent Matt Best to Rob Peterson obtained by The Enterprise.

Despite repeated inquires from Rob Peterson to the administration about Crawford's status leading into his son's spring volleyball season, the coach told the paper her contract to stay on as boys' coach was approved by Davis principal Wlll Brown and athletic director Dennis Foster in January.

However, while the school board reportedly approved all other Spring 2014 coaches on Jan. 23, Crawford's name was conspicuously absent from the list. On Feb. 5, less than two weeks before the boys' tryouts were scheduled to begin, she was reportedly told she would not return as coach. The school then sent a letter to parents of potential boys' volleyball players stating "practices will be canceled until a coaching staff is identified." The boys' season is scheduled to begin on Feb. 28.

"That was the desired outcome, but tthat was desired to come in December," Rob Peterson told The Enterprise. "Of course, it's a disaster for that to happen before tryouts."

Another public outcry over the coach's firing resulted in an emergency school board meeting on Thursday. This time around, Nancy Peterson reportedly recused herself from participation. During the session, a number of players on both the boys' and girls' volleyball teams defended Crawford.

Junior Evelyn Brady told The Enterprise Crawford was "the best coach I ever had," and junoir captain Maya Gilardi added, "The complaint came from one parent. ... Many others support Julie."

As a result, the Peterson-less school board voted 4-0 to grant Crawford an appeal. Again.