Superintendent and school board to decide coach's fate

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News 12 at 11, November 13, 2007

EVANS, Ga. --- Lakeside football coach Jody Grooms has been removed from the position of athletic director by Superintendent Charles Nagle after calling an illegal play during the last game of the season.

It was a bad call on the field that has left the Columbia County superintendent and Board of Education with a very tough call ahead.

The illegal play, named the Heisman, called by Lakeside Coach Jody Grooms is now a YouTube sensation, but it could cost the coach his job.

In the trick play, run in the last minute of the final game of the Panthers' season versus Effingham County, a receiver runs off to the sideline after the ball is in motion, the ball is thrown, and 40 yards down the field, another receiver runs on the field to try and catch it.

It didn't work and the team lost their final game of the season to
Effingham County.

Today, the Columbia County School Board met behind closed doors with the Superintendent to consider the coach's future.

"It's just a tough situation," says Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle.

A tough one indeed for everyone involved.

"As a parent of one of those children involved in that play, I'm more concerned about the hate coming from this community toward the coach then this one trick play-or that cheat play," says parent Tami Pye.

"We can't even concentrate in class. I mean I love him and the best thing about my senior year was playing for him," cries Chris Morris, a senior football player for Lakeside.

Senior Center Andrew Pridgen says, "He's been here for a year and probably the biggest impact of my life."

But what about the impact firing Coach Grooms will have?

Superintendent Nagle and the School Board are considering just that.

School Board Chair Regina Buccafusco says, "People make very stupid, self-destructive decisions, and now we have to decide how bad that decision is and how much of an effect it will have on the community."

"This is a very serious situation. We take it very seriously and there will be some severe action. To what degree? That just been very difficult for us to make that decision up to this point," adds Superintendent Nagle.

And what about the Lakeside community? One by one players and parents rallied behind their coach.

"Give the man some credit for the good he has done. Give him his punishment. And let coach grooms continue to move our athletic program forward," says one parent.

But not everyone was there in support. "Is the right thing to fire Coach Grooms? I don't know. But I think he is sorry because he got caught. And I just need to know if I send my son out there next year he isn't going to teach him to be a cheater," adds another parent.

For now a man used to calling the plays will have to sit it out on the sidelines.

"It's out of our hands and we'll respect the decision of the board, the superintendent, principal, and administrator. This is a special place. If we can call this home next year, we'll be honored and privileged and feel extremely lucky," says Coach Grooms.

Grooms is still the football coach at Lakeside. Superintendent Nagle expects to have his decision on any further action by the end of the week, then the board will have to vote to approve it.

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