A principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District appears to be ruling her school's athletic program with an iron fist, firing three popular coaches in two years, and many in the community want answers.
Granada Hills (Calif.) Kennedy High softball coach Craig Becker is the latest victim of principal Suzanne Blake's brief tenure, according to the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, the school has remained silent on the recent firings of fellow veteran coaches heading the baseball and football programs.
After leading the Golden Cougars to the Division I City Section championship game last season, Becker was reportedly relieved of his duties during a tournament in the first week of his 10th season at the helm.
"My interpretation is she doesn't want sports," Becker told the L.A. Times.
His firing stems from a letter he wrote to City Section marketing director Hugo Ramirez criticizing Time Warner Cable's failure to televise the sectional finals last season, according to the L.A. Daily News.
“I think it was gutless she called on the phone and didn’t have the guts to tell me in person,” Becker told the Daily News. “I stuck up for the kids and their right to exposure like all the other sports and I got shot down for it.”
Becker's ousting comes just six months after Kennedy football coach Dion Lambert received his walking papers shortly before the team's first game of the 2013 season. Lambert, who played parts of three NFL seasons for the Seahawks and Patriots, had been coaching since 2006. His staff allegedly did not report a player losing conciousness at a practice. The Golden Cougars had to forfeit a game last season as a result of his firing, and the school has reportedly still not found a permanent replacement for 2014.
Prior to Lambert's exit, Blake's suspension of Kennedy baseball coach Manny Alvarado led to his departure in 2012. Alvarado had won five City Section titles in his 24 years at the helm, featuring future major leaguers Garrett Anderson and Jon Garland among his list of successful players. Two of his palyers were caught fighting outside a locker room that season, and the school termed it as a hazing incident.
Alvarado claimed to have no knowledge of hazing in his programs, and hundreds of supporters rallied around the longtime coach, including Anderson and Garland. He later won an arbitration ruling against the L.A. Unified School District, but did not return as Kennedy's baseball coach the following year.
When Blake was hired as principal in 2011, she wrote on the school's website, "Kennedy has a strong tradition of outstanding achievements in academics and athletics. I hope you will seek to become a part of that traidtion." There is currently an online potention asking for her removal. It has 120 signatures.