Tim King, the head football coach of the Valley Regional/Old Lyme football team, was asked to resign his position Friday by the Region 4 school district over allegations that he organized a local independent football team against the district’s wishes.
Parents of players from Valley Regional and Old Lyme, who participated in the independent football team, say King was asked to resign or face termination, a fact confirmed by two sources within both schools who could not speak publicly about the issue due to their positions.
Emails seeking comment from Region 4 superintendent Brian White and Board of Education chairwoman Kate Sandmann were not returned Friday evening.
King, 60, declined to comment when reached Friday afternoon, citing advice from his lawyer. He has been the head coach for the Valley Regional football team since 1997 and won a state championship there in 2014.
A petition on Change.org posted in support of King had gathered over 1,300 signatures within seven hours.
The Connecticut Dept. of Health has recommended against playing 11 vs. 11 football during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the CIAC canceling plans for a 2020 season in September.
King came out against that decision in a The Day of New London article on the formation of an independent team from Valley Regional and Lyme/Old Lyme. In it King insinuated he was involved in the team’s organization, calling himself a ‘general manager.’
Valley Regional, the host school for the co-op with Lyme/Old Lyme, forbid the use of its facilities and equipment and prohibited its coaches from participating in the independent team.
According to team parents, King had virtually no involvement other than to watch a handful of practices and the team’s one game from the press box at Meriden’s Falcon Field on Oct. 24.
“I put the team together,” said Casey Metz, the mother of two Valley Regional football players, including a team captain. “I’m a mom of a senior who has worked his tail off since he started in flag football. He wants to play in college and my goal as a sports mom… I needed to finda way.”
Metz said she answered a Facebook post from Mark Siems, organizer of the Connecticut High School Independent Football League (CHSIFL) and, from there, organized the whole team — including fundraising efforts to pay for insurance, fees and equipment.
“We did this on our own,” she said.
The independent team was named the WarCats — a hybrid of the Valley and Old Lyme school nicknames. Former Valley coach Bobby Narducci coached the team alongside several team parents. The only Valley/Old Lyme coach involved was Phil Cohen, who was permitted by Lyme/Old Lyme High School, Metz said.
“At no time did I speak with Coach King,” she said. “I didn’t go to him for anything. I made all the decisions. I did everything. I never wanted him to be involved because I didn’t want him to get in any trouble.”
She and fellow team parent Doug Andrews said King would watch practice from a chair across the road from Tiffany Farms in Old Lyme, which the independent team used for a field.
“He would just sit there with his mask on,” said Andrews, whose son is also a team captain. Aside from picking up equipment, or mowing the field, Andrews said King “would just watch. He was not coaching.”
One of the parents who volunteered as a coach, however, tested positive for COVID-19, which led to 17 students quarantining for 14 days.
Board of Education Treasurer DG Fitton appeared to cast blame on the independent football team during a board meeting on Nov. 5. He said he witnessed students and district employees on a field in a video of the “non-school sponsored” independent team.
“We have a group of students, parents, and potentially employees in our district who wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer and selfishly decided to put the rest of our children at risk,” he said. “I take that very personally because I have a quarantined teenager, which is going to be a whole lot of fun for the next two weeks.”
Several Board Members agreed inquiries needed to be made. “The CIAC said (football) is high-risk and shouldn’t be happening and it’s happening out of school,” vice-chair Jane Cavanaugh said.”I think it does impact our school community and it needs to be looked at very carefully.”
Both Metz and Andrews said the team has consistently followed prevention protocols and that none of the quarantined players contracted the virus. Andrews said the infected volunteer always wore a mask and had minimal contact with the players.
“Again, none of those kids tested positive,” Metz said.
“I think they’re just looking for a scapegoat,” Andrews said of the Board of Education. “Them asking for his resignation is like trying to give the death penalty for going through a stop sign.”
Metz said she hasn’t been contacted by anyone from the Board of Education or school’s administration for at least two months.
“He’s a legend,” Metz said of King. “I don’t understand it. It completely blows my mind that they would go after a 30-year teacher and coach. It’s an unjustified attack.”