Local News

Lee County Coaching Change Sparks Controversy

Posted February 19, 2004

— A coaching controversy is dividing an entire community.

Lee County High School officials removed the school's football coach without explanation, calling it "a personnel matter."

Charlie Groves will keep his teaching job. But the issue seems far from settled.

"Everybody's being hush-hush about it, like they would rather it just kind of calm down," concerned parent Gary Willett said.

Some parents said they were told Groves' release had to do with a lack of support from the community. But the issue does not end there. For some reason, the community has become very passionate about this personnel matter.

No one knows that better than the folks who have covered the story from the beginning. Bill Horner III, publisher of the Sanford Herald, said that -- between regular mail and e-mail -- he has had more than 250 letters about the coach.

"Football's big, and when the football coach loses his job, it's significant," Horner said. "But when it happens in the way it did, controversially, people are a lot more passionate about it."

One of the letters to Horner came from resident Frank Thompson, who said he supports Groves and sees the coach as a victim of politics.

"I was furious that anybody can go to the superintendent and get that done," Thompson said. "Because if they can do that to a football coach, they can do that to any teacher."

Nevertheless, when it comes to resolving the issue, many people seem to be on the same page. They want to move past this and support their team no matter who the coach is.

School officials plan to move Groves to a different school next year. He will teach physical education.

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