Steve George, the former head coach at Newtown and a Seymour resident, will take over as Seymour’s head football coach for Tom Lennon on an interim basis, according to a letter sent by the Superintendent’s Office to team parents, which was obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media.
George’s sudden appointment comes “due to personnel issues and recent resignations,” according to the letter. Sources have said three football assistants resigned, another’s contract was not renewed and head coach Tom Lennon has been on paid administrative leave since May.
“We are very pleased to announce Mr. Steve George as our interim head coach for the 2018 season,” said the letter, signed by Superintendent of Schools Michael Wilson and athletic director/assistant principal Tara Yusko. “Coach George has a great background and comes to us with a lot of knowledge and experience.”
George coached Newtown for 10 years until resigning after the 2016 season. The letter indicated “several assistants” had also been appointed, though it did not name them.
It wasn’t clear Monday what prompted the suspension of Lennon, who was escorted from school premises on May 23, according to sources, or why his staff has since dissolved so close to the start of the 2018 season
Sources say the school informed offensive coordinator Joe Deptula that his contract would not be renewed early last week. Assistants Jeff Gilbert and John Johnson abruptly resigned soon afterward, followed by assistant Jamie Burns on Friday. [Update: Burns remained on staff with the hiring of George.]
Lennon, Seymour’s head football coach since 2009, was also suspended from his position in the Seymour High School Library/Media department and from his position as outdoor track and field coach. The track team finished the remainder of the season without him.
Lennon declined comment when reached via text message last week. Deptula also declined to discuss his situation when reached by phone last week. Attempts to reach the other former assistants have been unsuccessful.
Gilbert is an English teacher at Seymour High School and is the head coach of the baseball team, which won a state championship in June. Deputla is a teacher in the Waterbury Public School system. Johnson is the head indoor track coach and occasional substitute at Seymour.
Multiple calls to Seymour Superintendent Michael Wilson seeking comment on the status of Lennon and his staff late last week and on Monday, before the letter was obtained by Hearst, have not been returned. A call to Seymour First Selectman W. Kurt Miller Monday afternoon was also not returned.
The situation had left team members and their parents looking for answers from administration as the season rapidly approached and no coaching staff in place.
One team parent, who declined to be identified, described mass frustration among fellow parents and players about the status of the football coaches and the administration’s lack of communication. The parent said players have not been given adequate training to prepare for the season.
Players have taken it upon themselves to train, mostly off campus, the parent said, while the team awaited word about who would coach this season. Seymour, which did not run spring practice, is scheduled to begin on August 13.
A Newtown graduate, George spent 10 seasons there as head coach. He was 95-20 and his teams never had a losing season while earning to seven state playoff berths, including six straight from 2011-2016. Newtown also won four SWC championships during his tenure.
“It’s nice to see SOMEONE was willing to step up and help our players,” Tweeted Nicole Ditria-Klarides, State Rep. of the 105th Connecticut Congressional District, whose son, Cade is a senior captain on the Seymour football team. “Thank you SG and Seymour Football Staff.”
It’s nice to see SOMEONE was willing to step up and help our players. Thank you SG and Seymour Football Staff. https://t.co/X2UwNLcdui
— Klarides-Ditria (@RepNKD) August 6, 2018
George is scheduled to meet with the team Tuesday at the town’s middle school.