Washington coach loses job rather than fire father and brother based on parental surveys

Cameron Smith

A wildly popular football coach in Washington state was put under pressure to fire two of his assistants to meet with the standards of an "improvement plan" initiated after the results of a random survey. While that might be awkward under any circumstances, this particular coach's job was even more difficult for a powerful reason: He was being asked to fire his father and brother.

Gig Harbor coach Darren McKay — Tacoma News Tribune
Gig Harbor coach Darren McKay — Tacoma News Tribune

Eventually, the coach's refusal to meet with those guidelines led to his own dismissal just hours after impassioned pleas from the community to keep him on board.

As reported by the Tacoma News Tribune, among other sources, Gig Harbor (Wash.) High football coach Darren McKay was told that his father and brother -- who have served as the team's offensive line coach, and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, respectively -- were no longer allowed to be on his staff following the results of anonymous online surveys completed by parents of Gig Harbor players.

The decision to force out the other members of the McKay clan came after Darren McKay had already been given a positive end-of-season review by Gig Harbor athletic director Dale Johnson, the result of a 5-4 regular season and playoff berth that eventually ended in a postseason loss to perennial powerhouse Bellarmine (Wash.) High. In 12 years as a teacher and coach at Gig Harbor, McKay compiled a 77-41 record.

According to the News Tribune, just days after McKay's "official" review with Johnson, he was called back in by Johnson and was handed the results of the anonymous survey by the AD and school principal Ted Strong. The two administrators told McKay that as a result of the survey he would be placed on an "improvement plan" and that his relatives would not be allowed to continue as coaches within the Tides' football program.

Faced with the decision to accept harsh treatment of his relatives or resign, McKay did neither, instead filing a grievance against the policy that led to the ouster of his fellow staff members.

The outstanding grievance led to a large gathering of Gig Harbor football players and parents at a school board meeting on Thursday night, with all making clear that they felt a Gig Harbor team without all three McKays on the coaching staff would be inadequate.

"Railroading of these guys out of here isn't the right way to do business," Gig Harbor football father Bill Glover told the meeting, according to the News Tribune.

Yet McKay's insistence on fighting the school's ruling eventually led to his own demise with the program, as well. The head coach was officially fired on Friday, just hours after the public inquest at the Gig Harbor school board meeting which aimed to save his and his relatives' positions.

Regardless of what comes of McKay's grievance, the survey process may have already brought about one unlikely casualty: The survey itself. In light of the maelstrom of controversy brought about by the surveys distributed in the fall season, Gig Harbor superintendent Terry Bouck said that the school did not hand out any surveys for the winter sports and was considering whether or not to use the program again at any point.

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