A TAPPS district committee will meet Tuesday morning to determine whether a Central Catholic High School assistant football coach violated ethics rules Friday night when he stood near Antonian’s players on the sideline and took notes during the Apaches’ game against St. Anthony.
Central Catholic school officials suspended defensive coordinator John Jennings indefinitely Saturday morning before the Buttons traveled to Brownsville to play St. Joseph in a district game.
Jennings was asked to leave the game at Antonian and hand over his notes after he was spotted hovering near the players’ box on the Apaches’ sideline, Antonian athletic director Devlyn Lovell said.
Antonian hosts Central Catholic in a district game Friday night. Both schools compete in Division I/District 2 of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.
“He was somewhere he shouldn’t be,” Lovell said Monday. “He was pretty close to our team. One of our coaches asked who he was and I started to follow him (Jennings) when he walked away. When I asked him who he was, he wouldn’t tell me.”
Lovell said he had to ask a policeman at the stadium to intervene to get Jennings to identify himself.
Antonian principal Gilbert Saenz reported the incident with a phone call Friday night to Central Catholic principal Eddie Ybarra, who went to Antonian to look over Jennings’ notes.
Antonian head coach Van Fuschak called Central Catholic athletic director Carlos Enrico, who was the Buttons’ football coach for 24 seasons before he resigned in February, to complain shortly after the game Friday night.
Enrico's resignation and the hiring of Chris Roberts, a freshman coach at Central Catholic coach the previous two seasons, sparked an uproar that rocked the school’s community for weeks.
A group of alumni vehemently protested the change in Enrico’s job status, claiming the school’s administration bowed to pressure from a small group of boosters with deep pockets to force out Enrico and promote Roberts.
Roberts watched game from stands
Jennings is in his first season at Central Catholic. He was not at practice Monday afternoon, and couldn’t be reached for comment.
The TAPPS district executive committee, composed of the athletic directors of the 10 schools in the league Antonian and Central Catholic compete in throughout the school year, will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Providence High School to discuss the matter, Fuschak said.
Other schools in the district besides Antonian and Central Catholic are Austin St. Michael’s, Brownsville St. Joseph, Holy Cross, Incarnate Word, Laredo St. Augustine, Laredo St. Joseph, Providence and Victoria St. Joseph.
Roberts watched the St. Anthony-Antonian game from the stands with some of his other assistants and Buttons players.
Coaches usually sit in the press box or in the stands when they scout an opponent, but some watch games from the sideline in a designated area away from either team.
"We feel that he was a little bit overzealous and made some people uncomfortable," Robert said of Jennings.
Roberts was in meetings behind closed doors for most of Monday and arrived at practice after it was well underway. He was cordial as he spoke about the incident before going on the field.
“It was one of those deals where we’ve got kind of a gray area in scouting,” Roberts said. “There’s a gray area. When you get into TAPPS, what we’re all learning and finding out is that when you go scout, there’s not a designated area like there is in the UIL world.
“The press boxes aren’t as big. Everything tends to be a little bit small, and so you go by the policies of the stadium and the procedures that they have. As everyone knows, at Antonian you’re allowed to walk around the field and walk on the track in kind of a free flow, and that’s kind of what happened.”
Fuschak: No gray area
Fuschak, who is in his 37th year of coaching, strongly disagreed with Roberts’ assessment of the situation.
“There’s no gray area,” Fuschak said. “It’s black and white. The gray area is that you allow it. That’s the gray area. The black and white, you don’t do it. That’s the bottom line.”
Fuschak also dismissed the notion that the size of a stadium factors into where coaches sit or stand when they scout.
“That’s not an excuse,” Fuschak said. “Holy Cross, St. Anthony, every one of them have bleachers. If you’re going to scout, you can stand outside the track. We’ve got a fence here they can stand outside of.
“But when a team is playing, I don’t care what league it is, you don’t stand right next to the team that you’re playing. When they’re right behind you in your players’ box, then I think that crosses the line.”
Jennings 'absolutely devastated'
Fuschak acknowledged that he was upset after one of his assistant coaches told him a Central Catholic coach had been seen taking notes while standing near the Apaches' team area.
“I don’t think this is something you overlook,” Fuschak said. “When I found out about, I was hacked. To me, that is not the way to run a program.”
Roberts said Jennings has expressed regret about the incident.
“He’s absolutely devastated,” Roberts said. “He’s remorseful. He’s devastated that he can’t be with the kids.”
“He said, ‘I’m awfully sorry. I’m disappointed. I didn’t realize I was doing something wrong. For the benefit of the school, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’”
Antonian beat St. Anthony in its district opener to improve to 3-2. Central Catholic lost to Brownsville
St. Joseph 35-28 the next day, slipping to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in district. The Buttons gave up 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Central Catholic is 36-2 in its series against Antonian, which hasn’t beaten the Buttons since 2004.