Shortly after dueling press statements were released on Friday between Southlake Carroll head football coach Hal Wasson’s attorney and the Carroll ISD, it became clear.
It doesn’t matter what the district’s forthcoming report unveils regarding its review of the Dragons football program. Don’t look for Wasson to return for a 12th season this fall.
And he shouldn’t.
This is not to suggest I’m siding with Southlake Carroll over Wasson, or submit that Wasson should feel like he’s had enough and should walk away.
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Friday’s tit-for-tat exposed how toxic everything has become. The relationship between Wasson and the district is broken. It won’t be fixed. Any attempt to do so would be in vain.
This has been bubbling for some time. I first became aware of the friction last fall. Even the unexpected run to the 2017 Class 6A Division II state quarterfinals was not going to save this.
Wins do matter. But if it was only about that, Wasson would have checked all the boxes, winning 82 percent of his games through 11 seasons and a 2011 state title.
Making sure you’re on the same page with everyone in your school district means more. These sides are not on the same page.
When Wasson’s Austin-based attorney Karl Tiger Hanner, who handles school law, issues a statement that uses such charged phrases as, “understandably embarrassed,” “intends to cooperate” and “defending himself and this program,” it’s done for two reasons:
▪ He and his client want a head start on winning the public relations war.
▪ They’re basically telling the district to get ready for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
When Carroll responds with its own statement, it’s saying, “don’t try to intimidate us.” When Carroll responds with its own statement, it’s saying, “don’t try to intimidate us.”
Remember, it’s not what is said but what isn’t said. At the Jan. 22 school board meeting, there were no planned announcements regarding the football program.
Now we know why.
Even in a scenario where Wasson is absolved from wrongdoing and cleared to return, I’m not sure how he could. This would become the most tense, awkward and distrustful of professional relationships. Each person involved would constantly be looking over his or her shoulder.
If they’re not already, Mr. Hanner and the district should be talking about a dignified exit strategy, and perhaps before the report is finalized and submitted to the UIL. Late-night calls and face-to-face meetings should be done in earnest.
Friday afternoon’s news dump only added to the confusion, frustration and the manipulation — yes, manipulation — involved in forcing people to take a side. It should have never happened. This got petty.
But I do know this: the atmosphere at a Carroll athletic event is different these days.
I was at the boys and girls basketball games at Carroll’s gym on Jan. 23 against Lewisville. These games were decided by seven and three points respectively. The boys rallied in the fourth quarter to win, 69-66. It was so quiet, I thought I was in church, even in the fourth quarter.
That wasn’t an isolated case. On Oct. 26, when Carroll football played at Trophy Club Byron Nelson and clinched a playoff spot, winning 50-17, the traveling party gave the appearance of an invitation-only crowd. Thursday games can be tough. But the signature program was going for its 18th consecutive postseason berth.
That’s shocking and unfortunate and shows a sense of complacency. That’s dangerous.
Carroll is winning, but it needs a reboot. Wasson, 61, needs a reboot. For him, it doesn’t matter if that’s retirement, becoming a head coach elsewhere or joining another staff as an assistant. He’s trying to make sure he leaves a game he’s served for four decades on his own terms.
Dragons football will move forward. There is a solid nucleus between junior-to-be defensive back/wide receiver R.J. Mickens, senior-to-be running back T.J. McDaniel, senior to-be quarterback Will Bowers, junior-to-be offensive guard Andrej Karic and junior-to-be nose guard Quentin Bunton.
They will lead the charge for a 19th consecutive postseason appearance. Thursday’s realignment will add another wrinkle to that journey.
If it’s not Wasson leading, then athletic director Darren Allman and district hierarchy are about to make the biggest decision that will impact football and the school’s overall athletic program for the next 20 years.
Should that be the case, then it needs to be as thorough and decisive as this review is expected to be.
Somewhere, Bob Ledbetter is watching.