SEYMOUR — Steve George stood at the front of the Seymour Middle School auditorium, still trying to process what had been a whirlwind few days.
George, the former head coach at Newtown and a Seymour resident, was officially introduced Tuesday night as the football coach at Seymour High School. His appointment comes at the same time it was revealed that police were investigating an alleged incident within the program.
“My head is still spinning, as you can imagine,” George told a crowd of approximately 100 players, parents and school officials. “Last week, I had my feet up by my pool.”
In a letter to team parents released Monday afternoon, the Superintendent’s Office announced that, “due to personnel issues and recent resignations,” George would be taking over as Seymour’s coach on an interim basis.
Tom Lennon, Seymour’s head coach since 2009, has been on paid administrative leave since May, according to sources.Those sources have also said one assistant coach did not have his contract renewed and two others since resigned.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Wilson declined to comment on Lennon’s status, nor did he elaborate on why the assistants are no longer on staff.
Sources have said police have been questioning witnesses.
While multiple calls to Seymour Police Chief Paul Satkowski this week have not been returned, Nicole Klarides-Ditria, Representative of Connecticut’s 105th State House District, confirmed at the meeting Tuesday night she knew of an active police investigation into an incident involving the football program. Klarides-Ditria said she did not know further details.
“It’s an ongoing investigation and you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty,” said Klarides-Ditria, whose son, Cade, is a senior captain. “We just have to let (the investigation) run its course.”
As for the present, Wilson is pleased to have George walking the sidelines. George will not be at the first week of practice, however, due to a prior family commitment.
“Our athletic director (Tara Yusko) was in constant contact with Coach George. That took a long time,” Wilson said. “We were confident that he was going to come on board. We had other people in mind as well. Obviously, he was the gentleman we wanted. We’re very, very happy he accepted.”
George revealed his staff will include former Newtown standouts Mike Kearns, Tom Long, Drew Tarantino and Tim Krapf.
Jamie Burns, who coached the offensive and defensive line under Lennon, will also remain with the team, contrary to Monday’s report that he had resigned.
“It was tough, but I pulled them together,” George said. “Over the weekend, I got a lot of good commits to help coach these (players) this season. I was really happy that we got the group we did. I think they’re going to be well-coached this year.”
George, 43, who was the head coach at Newtown for 10 seasons and remained on board last year as an assistant, said his goal is to “steer the ship.” He plans to be with the team through the season, after which the school will re-evaluate the position.
Last week, with still no coach in place and the start of practice rapidly approaching, one parent, who declined to be identified, expressed frustration with the lack of communication from the school, which was echoed by Klarides-Ditria on Tuesday night.
“Just let us know what’s going on,” Klarides-Ditria said. “This process started before school ended in June. … They needed to have a Plan B and it seems like they really didn’t, and they were playing catch-up.”
With no training schedule in place, several players took it upon themselves to work out at local gyms.
“It’s been pretty tough,” said quarterback Ian Sadick, a rising senior and team captain. “We had three years with the best coaching staff ever, but the people who they brought in know what they’re doing.”
Sean Patrick Bowley contributed to this story