No one outside of a small group of people may ever know why DeSoto coach Todd Peterman’s contract didn’t receive an extension at Monday night’s school board meeting.
Three hours to the south, folks in Navasota are still scratching their heads about why former coach Lee Fedora’s contract didn’t receive an extension the first time it showed up on an agenda — and that was 14 months ago.
The situation Monday in DeSoto eerily parallels what happened in Navasota in February 2016. These were two great programs, loaded with talent and great coaching, and both coming off the best seasons in school history — complete with state championships.
Fedora’s public slap in the face happened on Feb. 15, 2016, when a routine, one-year contract extension showed up on the agenda for the Board of Trustees. The board talked about it in closed session, and when they reconvened, one trustee made a motion to take action. The motion died for lack of a second.
News spread quickly. What the board figured was a small story that would get little or no mention rapidly gained traction and turned into regional and statewide news.
Board members never publicly commented on why they didn’t take it to a vote, but, oh, was there speculation.
One Navasota board member took to social media to claim the board didn’t have enough information on Fedora’s contract. However, that same group took action on two other administrators’ contracts that same evening.
Speculations went from Fedora making too much money, to having too many assistants, all the way too simply much power. Some speculated that the board was trying to send a message to the superintendent they wanted to get rid of — they ran their campaign on that premise. Others said the school district’s athletics shouldn’t overshadow academics. NISD academics were in complete disarray.
Most of the Navasota community became furious, which led to a special-called meeting on Feb. 29. The board took no public comments from the packed room, and they grilled Fedora behind closed doors. After meeting with their highly-successful coach (state titles in 2012 and 2014 and 12-1 record in 2015) they reconvened.
Fedora entered back into the room with a face redder than a flock of cardinals in a strawberry patch.
The board unanimously approved Fedora’s contract, but the damage and public humiliation had been done. He abruptly resigned two weeks later, waiting until basketball season was over so it wouldn’t take away from the athletic teams’ endeavors. He didn’t coach in 2016, and he took the A&M Consolidated job three months ago.
Peterman has only been the head coach for two years at DeSoto, taking them to a 6-6 mark his first season and then winning it all — state championship and 16-0 record — in 2016.
News that his contract may not get extended hit the folks in the town south of Dallas about an hour and a half before the meeting. People packed the room, and the board met behind closed doors a long time. When they came back, they took no action.
Now speculation has risen about the DeSoto situation, most notably a tweet from Zachary Orr, a former DeSoto star and former NFL linebacker.
He wrote: “As crazy as this might sound there are members on the school board who don’t want Peterman because he is WHITE!! Which is sickening.”
As crazy as this might sound there are members on the school board who don't want Peterman because he is WHITE!! Which is sickening.
— Zachary Orr (@ZO35) April 24, 2017
Peterman is white while 80.4 percent of DeSoto High School is identified as African-American, according to the Texas Education Agency.
The DeSoto school board is comprised of four African-Americans and three Caucasians. Three incumbent board members — Karen Daniel, Jerry Hall and Aubrey C. Cooper — are each running for reelection, and each is contentious with three opponents apiece.
Orr’s father, Terry, spoke during the open session Monday and said he hoped race wasn’t a factor.
Terry Orr, the father of former DeSoto football, raises issue of race in potential football coach firing. pic.twitter.com/WmYNPNEyrY
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) April 25, 2017
According to a Dallas Morning News report, Abe Cooper, who serves as the team’s unofficial chaplain, also told the board he hoped race wasn’t a factor.
Team chaplain Abe Cooper on Peterman getting fired: "I find that very troubling." Lots of amens when he mentions race aspect.
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) April 25, 2017
Early indications from the school board say it isn’t about race. Only time will tell. It may get leaked from a source, like an insider who’s close to the program. A booster. A small business owner.
If there’s a problem in DeSoto, the best thing the school board can do is publicly state it and move on. If there’s a personal agenda with the coach, whether it’s race or the way he coaches or deciding which players to play, then the school board members need to remove themselves. That’s not why they need to be on the school board.
Fedora and Peterman are similar in that they are highly successful with state championships on their resumes. But more importantly, they’re shapers of young men, teaching them right from wrong. Teaching them to learn from mistakes and overcome adversity. They teach their kids to be even better people/students than they are athletes.
Folks have begun rallying around Peterman in DeSoto, starting a hashtag campaign to keep him. They did the same in Navasota.
Peterman has the support of his superintendent, as did Fedora.
Fedora said he didn’t feel comfortable in the environment created, therefore he resigned. The team won just two games in 2016, and the academics have not improved.
Peterman has a choice to make on his future if the school board doesn’t make it for him. Is this an environment he’ll want to remain in after this debacle? He must think about his family.
He will be successful regardless of where he goes. Should he decide to move on, will DeSoto be attractive enough to the next prospective coach?
— Desoto Football (@DesotoFB) April 25, 2017