For five weeks, Hal Wasson didn't know if he was going to return for a 12th season as the head football coach at Southlake Carroll High School.
He waited and waited, like everyone else.
On Sunday, the Carroll school district finally decided to cut ties with the coach that won a UIL Texas state championship in 2011, agreeing on a settlement.
A source said Sunday that Wasson and Carroll ISD settled for the balance of his two-year contract, for $165,300.26. Wasson will be paid for the rest of 2017-18 and all of 2018-19.
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Carroll ISD then posted a job opening for their high school football coach on Monday, making it official that its relationship with Wasson had come to an end after 11 years.
The 61-year-old Wasson was 121-25 with an .829 winning percentage as Carroll head coach. The Dragons finished 10-4 in 2017 and advanced to the Class 6A Division II state quarterfinals before falling to Waco Midway, 42-28.
With school board meetings on Feb. 5 and Feb. 20, Wasson had kept quiet during the entire investigation and only spoke through his attorney, Karl "Tiger" Hanner.
But for the first time since Jan. 24, Wasson spoke with the Star-Telegram during a 30-minute phone interview to share his thoughts on the ordeal and to reflect on his time with the Dragons.
Who first notified you about the news and what was your initial reaction?
[Carroll ISD assistant Superintendent] Matt Miller and [athletic director] Darren Allman came to the field house on Tuesday, Jan. 23 in the morning at about 10 a.m. They said there were serious allegations against me so they pulled a recorder, shut the door and away we went. It was quite shocking and alarming. They said the allegations were serious enough that it could cost us some of those gold footballs of ours and maybe even the 2011 state championship. So I was pretty much in shock. The last thing I wanted to do was something guilty and to bring embarrassment to this great district.
Did you ever consider going to any of the school board meetings?
We were never invited.
Did you follow any of the meetings, and what was your reaction from some of the supporters that were there?
I’ve always admired people who take a stand – it’s an admirable trait and speaks volumes of you, whether it’s for or against. I didn’t follow much, I know my son and daughter were at one of those and I heard about a few incidents, and was always kept up to date about what was going on. I was overwhelmed by the support from the community, parents and players. It was an incredible run and I got to meet so many great people, great coaches and great kids. We had a great staff and great community. I got to talk at clinics and college camps. I was allowed to do all of that because I represented the Carroll Dragons. I’m very thankful for that and it will always be a great memory for me. I am disappointed I can’t finish my career at Carroll. We had 16 returning starters that made it four rounds deep in the playoffs so I was excited about the fall. I’m choosing to focus on the good things and my family and I have no regrets. I feel stronger everyday, and I believed we worked hard to do things the right way and strove to be as good as we could be. I don’t have any ill feelings the way we did things – I feel really good about it.
What bothered you the most?
The way it was handled bothered me the most. I was there for 11 years and if change was inevitable, if there needed to be a change with the Dragon football program, I wish they sat me down and talked – maybe we should’ve won 94 percent of our games instead of 80 or whatever. But I wish we had a big boy meeting to part ways and say our goodbyes, but I wasn’t in control so that was the most disappointing aspect.
Were you able to speak to your players? Were you able to tell your kids and your staff?
It really bothered me because I like closure. I was disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t have closure with my players and coaches because it’s a strong relationship. There was no contact with anyone. I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone.
What would you like the public to know?
Hal Wasson is in a good place. My family has stood strongly behind me through this journey. Former players, the community, and friends – I can’t say enough good things about it. All the support was overwhelming, and I’m going to be better and stronger because of it. I’ve had to watch my family suffer – my wife, mom and dad particularly – but we never wavered, we kept going strong. I hope Carroll gets a great coach to continue the great tradition. As the Dragons football coach, I learned from legendary coaches and Dragon 101, the legacy of players that came through here. I felt like entering the expectations of those guys that built that place. It was never about me, it was about the guys that built it, and guys that represented the Dragon program. I leave the field house with my head held up high with the Dragon tradition: dignity and respect. The kids played with great passion and I was able to mentor great leaders that can be successful in life. Someone told me that the Carroll Dragons are at the top for winning in the last 20-25 years, or an extended period of time. I feel really good about where the program is and I hope it continues to have a long legacy of Dragon football. I took mentoring guys into great leaders very seriously and I wish them nothing but the best. I think the school and community deserves the best.
What's next? Do you want to coach immediately or take some time away from the game?
I’m going to let the dust settle a little bit. No doubt this has been a tough five weeks, but it’s also been a learning five weeks. I feel like I have a lot left in me so I do want to coach, absolutely. The line of coaching I want to do, I want purpose – helping coaches and athletes – whatever that entails or what form it comes in. I am processing it right now.
Have you been contacted by any schools about possibly coaching again?
People have reached out, two or three school districts and at least some in the business world, but it’s still too early. God has a plan for me. I have no doubt He has a hand in this and I’ll trust the direction I’m led.
When you look back at your career at Carroll, what were the best games you coached?
Obviously, the top would be winning the 2011 state championship against Hightower, which was a great team. The others aren’t in particular order, but a memorable game was against Dallas Skyline in 2011 (state semifinals). We were down two scores with less than two minutes (and won 28-24). Another was against Mansfield at AT&T Stadium (2014 bi-district). That was a phenomenal game (38-31). We were down three scores and didn’t look good, but came back to win. Another was 2014 against Tulsa Union (Week 2). We won in overtime (42-41). We scored in overtime and could’ve kicked it to tie, or go for two and the win, and we went for it. We beat Allen in double overtime at AT&T Stadium. That was a crazy game with 40- or 50,000 people watching (winning 35-34 in 2009 regional round; Allen was defending state champion). Another great win was against DeSoto this year at The Star (33-15 in area round). They were the defending state champs and we had so much respect for them. Another one was against Joey McGuire and Cedar Hill (a 37-33 win in 2015 bi-district). What I’ve learned through all of this is that I have great respect for coaches and what they do.
Any final words for the Dragon nation?
I’m very thankful I had the opportunity to serve as head football coach of the Carroll Dragons. I have so many fond memories, so much support, and admire the community and program. I was blessed to be that coach in more ways than one and I go out feeling good about where the program is.