Hundreds showed up at Arcadia’s gym pleading with officials for fired football coach Kerry Taylor’s return.
Richard Obert, azcentral sports
A packed Phoenix Arcadia gymnasium was void of the man in the middle on Wednesday night. Kerry Taylor, who was fired on Friday as Arcadia’s head football coach, wasn’t allowed to attend.
But he had a huge backing of supporters demanding for him to return to keep running the program that was starting to gain traction under his guidance in one season.
There were cheers for Taylor. And there were tears.
“Let’s go play football tomorrow,” booster Jon Hunt finally yelled out during a two hours of testimony and love for Taylor.
Arcadia coach Kerry Taylor gives his team instructions from the sideline against Coronado, Phoenix, Ariz. August 17, 2018. (Photo: Kynan Marlin)
Assistant Scottsdale Unified School District superintendent Dr. Milissa Sackos told the passionate gathering she would take all of the input to acting superintendent Dr. John Kriekard and they would meet about it Thursday, keeping a door open for Taylor’s possible return.
Trey Brown, a junior-to-be defensive end, asked Sackos how long it would take before they would receive an answer.
Sackos said it would be a priority.
Arcadia was scheduled to play in Arizona State’s 7-on-7 passing tournament on Thursday night, but that won’t happen without a coach.
Assistant coach Sam Johnson said that nobody from Arcadia has reached out to the assistants to keep the program going in Taylor’s absence.
On Saturday, the assistants led the Titans to a 7-on-7 tournament in Peoria. But since then, there has been no football, and the players and parents are growing restless.
Taylor, who turned the Titans around after an 0-10 season during which parents felt their sons’ safety was in jeopardy to 6-4 in his first year, was fired on Friday, after he defended his practices as a coach in an article by The Republic.
Arcadia’s football program had been given a warning by the Arizona Interscholastic Association at its last Executive Board meeting after the school self-reported that there was recruiting and mandatory, out-of-season practices under Taylor’s watch in his first season.
The district has been barraged by emails since his firing.
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Principal Todd Stevens called for Wednesday’s community meeting to address concerns. Three governing board members were in attendance.
It was overwhelmingly in Taylor’s favor to have him reinstated and critical of Athletic Director Cher Fesenmaier, who was not at Wednesday’s meeting because of a family obligation.
Stevens said that, after The Republic article and Taylor’s Twitter statement, it became apparent that Taylor hadn’t learned from meetings they had with him concerning past mistakes in the program.
Stevens said that when Arcadia’s report went to the AIA board in April, AIA Executive Director David Hines told him that had Arcadia not self-reported, the football program would have been placed on probation. Instead, Arcadia was given a warning, which is the next step from being banned from the playoffs.
Stevens said there were about 10 meetings with Taylor regarding these allegations, and he felt through his recent public remarks, he had not learned.
Taylor defended himself, saying there was no recruiting and that there were no mandatory practices, but added if a player wasn’t involved in another sport, he was expected to be involved with the football program in the offseason.
In his Twitter statement the next day, Taylor said, he was told that he was not allowed to send proof to the AIA that he didn’t have an assistant at another school to recruit eighth graders at a youth camp.
He went on to say in his statement that he informed a player’s guardian that it was in his best interest to attend the football program in a time of growth, and the guardian reported that to the AD.
“He was fighting for this program, he was fighting for these kids, and I think that made our AD and other members of the administration uncomfortable,” Johnson said. “I’m going to steal a line from (running back) Paxton (Earl). He mentioned this on Twitter. I think some of the issue that came up was tantamount to a mosquito bite.
“Instead of putting ointment on it and a Band-Aid, we took a chainsaw and cut his hand off. I think communication has been an issue on all fronts. There has been a lack of communication. You’ve got a guy who has shown he will fight and push for these kids. I hope when you meet with your superiors, you’ll reinstate Coach Taylor and let us finish what we started.”
Senior-to-be wide receiver Marcus Williams, at one point, broke down and cried as Brown gave testimony on how Taylor helped shape his direction in football and life with his love and passion.
Williams, a transfer from Phoenix Camelback, said that Taylor kept on him about improving his grades until he got a passing mark in a class.
“Without Coach Kerry Taylor, there is no football,” Williams said, directing his comments to Stevens. “What you did was hurtful. It hit me hard. Our quarterback Kadin (Beler) was speechless, and he’s never speechless.
“We had camp last year, and we all sat in a classroom, and Coach asked us, ‘Why do you guys love the game of football?’ At the end of that, you saw a lot of guys had tears in their eyes. They loved football because of Coach. Me coming to Arcadia, I came because of Coach. There is no football program without him. I ask you to bring him back, because he’s my only ticket out of here. I left Camelback, because I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere. My grades were bad. He texted me day and night, ‘Did you get your grades up?’ I was failing math. I had 14 percent. Every day at practice he called me out, ‘Marcus, you dropped the ball because you can’t get your math grade up, huh?’ I said, ‘Coach, I got you.’ The final day I passed it. I got 61.
“We got what 28 kids? You talk about recruiting. I see no recruiting happening here. Our practices? Yeah, they are mandatory in our eyes. My cousin (safety) Samaury (Alexander), he never missed a practice. The kids who want to play varsity, who are out on vacation and saying ‘Why am I not starting?’ He’ll tell you right here why. He never missed a practice.”
Beler said that Taylor built a family.
“Some of these kids don’t have fathers,” Beler said. “Kerry Taylor is a father to all of us. This man is our leader. We don’t want to play for anybody else. You can’t just come in and take a new coach and expect all of us to play for him. He built something for us.
“That man values family and he brought it to us. For some of these, all we’ve got is football. Why take that away from us?”
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at email@example.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.
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