You've heard the story by now about the Texas Wesleyan head baseball coach that responded to a recruit from Colorado interested in the program by emailing him a not-so-welcoming response.
You may have also heard that he got fired less than 24 hours after the email went viral.
Well, the Star-Telegram caught up with that coach, former Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Jeffcoat, at his attorney's Fort Worth office on Sunday to find out what exactly happened and where he goes from here.
What was going through your head when you were responding to that email?
Let me say first of all, it was a dumb email. I shouldn’t have sent it. I probably sent that out of frustration from over the years of losing people to drug tests. I get three, four or five emails a day from people interested in coming to Texas Wesleyan. I try to send a general ‘hey we got tryout dates in May and June. Come down so we can take a look at you and see if we can offer you anything. In 17 years, I’ve never had a high school player come down from the state of Colorado, for instance. It’s probably too far or too expensive, or we weren’t able to offer somebody money. And I didn’t expect this man to quite honestly. Probably out of frustration out of losing players in the past, I said something I shouldn’t have said.
Were you surprised that the recruit made the email public in this way?
I don’t know what this young man did. I don’t know if he specifically did it, or he gave it to someone else and it bothered them that they needed to shoot it out all over the place. I don’t hold any grudge against this young man. I don’t think he was out to get me or anything. It’s just an unfortunate situation.
The email mentioned that there was a concern with the state’s drug law policy and the player’s relationship with it. How long has the policy been in place?
We have certainly recruited players from Colorado, either transfer or junior college players, and had some play for us in the past. That wasn’t chiseled in stone. When push came to shove and we got heavily involved in the recruiting process, and we found a man from Colorado or specifically from a state that has legalized marijuana, we would have done our homework and talked to the coach, and tried to talk to summer ball coaches and find out the kind of character of the player. And we are always looking for quality character young men, whether that’s from a state that has legalized it, or from state’s where it’s still illegal.
Did you talk to this player’s coaches?
It never got to that. He sent me one email and I responded expecting him not to have come down for a tryout anyway.
Have you emailed players from states where marijuana is legal with this type of response you sent this player?
This is the only one I’ve ever sent. I usually send out the generic 'hey thanks for the interest in our program...."
There’s a line in the email about the recruit thanking his liberal politicians. What were you saying there and why did you feel it was important to include?
It wasn’t worded the way I should have worded it. I should have said, if I was even going to say something, which I shouldn’t have, as we all know it was actually the voters of Colorado who voted in this proposition. My view is that it was probably mostly liberal people that voted for that, probably not all. And it was probably mostly liberal politicians that were probably supporting it and promoting it.
Is that phrasing a collection of your own political views?
I am certainly a big opponent of the legalization of marijuana. I think it is going to be very harmful to our country in several states if they continue to legalize it. It’s personally affected me in several ways and I don’t think I should get into what it’s done. It’s hurt me and my family. It’s hurt me financially. I think it has been detrimental to my teams that I have had in the past. When we started the drug-testing policy at Wesleyan, maybe six or seven years ago, not every year, but some years I’ve lost some players that failed a drug test.
Were you surprised at how big the story got?
I think we all know that this is one of the big, polarizing subjects in our country right now. There are obviously a lot of people who are for it and believe it is OK. There are a lot of us, such as myself, who are a big opponent of legalizing marijuana. And it is my belief that I don’t think a baseball player is going to be more successful if he uses it. Just like I wouldn’t want baseball players on my team who are smoking illegal cigarettes. It would harm their ability to perform day in and day out. I wouldn’t want a young man who is doing consistent drinking. I think it is going to cause him to not perform as well. The fact that it is an illegal, mind-altering substance, I don’t think it would benefit my team or any college baseball team.
The university released information about a previous investigation. Were you aware of it, or were there any discussions about that?
Not really. I was made aware of some investigating of some infraction possibly, on the team. They said it was an on-going investigation. I have not heard the details of the specifics of it yet.
Do you think the university owes you an explanation about that, or is it not related?
It’s two different topics. First they said I am being terminated because of the email. Then they said because of the on-going infractions. I am not sure which one was the bigger deal. It sure appears like it was the email, which is a little disappointing. Maybe I should have been reprimanded and should’ve come out with a statement, and talked about it publicly and apologized. But I certainly don’t think it’s something I should have been terminated for.
How frustrating was it that you weren’t afforded the opportunity to defend yourself in your capacity as the coach?
My belief is that when it came out publicly and went viral, I started being bombarded on my email with the school and my office phone number. I’m sure the president’s and whoever else’s offices were being bombarded and I think they had a knee-jerk reaction to this.
Has there been criticism from people and places you didn’t expect?
I think it has been really interesting. Certainly I have gotten some negative. But, I’ve also got a lot of positive feedback from this. I’ve had several parents, some I know, some I don’t know from other states who have applauded me for standing up. Specifically, I’ve had some parents in Colorado say it’s destroying our state and we really appreciate you standing up. I had one lady from Alaska that sent an email to me and said my son is looking for schools to go to. I’m now having him apply to Texas Wesleyan. You can have my money for four years as long as you’re the head baseball coach.
When you sent the recruit that email, did he respond or has there been any interaction since then?
I don’t think he ever sent anything back to me. I have had people who are associated with him and know him, I guess, that sent things back. Some have been negative, one was positive. People have their right to their opinions.
What’s next for you in this process?
I do have legal counseling. We are looking at all options right now. Again, it was disappointing after 17 years, building that program basically back from scratch, and not [being] given an opportunity to sit down and talk in front of the public and make an apology and try to move forward as a university and athletic department with this, rather than being shown the door as quickly as I was. It was very disappointing.
How has the team responded?
I guess because it is an on-going investigation and could be a legal matter, they have been advised to not communicate with me at this time.
What would you say to them, if you could?
I would explain the email frustration, and something I probably shouldn’t have done. But I think the guys know me well enough, they know my heart. They know the time, tears, energy and sweat I’ve put into the program to try and make us the best baseball team we could possibly be. I was trying to make it a positive experience for them in college. It was some of the most enjoyable days of my life playing college baseball. We were ranked in the top 10 in one poll. We were off to a pretty good start. I’m about trying to help young men be better baseball players and hopefully get a college education and be productive citizens in our community.
What’s next for you in terms of coaching?
Honestly, there is part of me that wants to get back in it. I still have the competitive juices.
What’s the one thing you want people to know that might not be out there already?
I wish I would have said it differently or maybe not even said it at all. The great thing about our country is that we have our first amendment rights. You can adamantly disagree with what I said. And again, I probably shouldn’t have said it the way I did, and that’s OK, that’s what our country is about. Again, from my life experiences, and my personal life, and as the baseball coach at Texas Wesleyan, when it has hurt out team because some people in the past have failed a drug test, it’s disappointing. I don’t believe it is going to improve the quality of life in our society, legalizing another mind-altering drug.
This seems like a topic that is very important to you. If you don’t end up coaching again, would you have any interest in any activism work against legalizing marijuana?
I certainly wouldn’t rule anything out. It is passionate to me. Again, this is not the time or place, but it affected my life personally several years ago. It cost me a lot financially. I am a big believer in that it is not going to improve the people’s quality of life who get involved with it. Who knows what I am going to do. I still love the game. The game has been very good to me.