Deciding the fate of Southlake Carroll coach Hal Wasson
Late on a Sunday night in September 2016, Southlake Carroll football coach Hal Wasson and Carroll athletic director Darren Allman met at the field house to hash out a power struggle that would eventually lead to Wasson's resignation and Allman being reassigned.
Earlier that day, Allman, in his second year as the Carroll AD, had sent Wasson a lengthy, hand-written letter detailing his concerns about Wasson's coaching style and his treatment of assistant coaches and players, according to Wasson's personnel documents obtained by the Star-Telegram via an open records request.
In the letter, Allman pleaded with Wasson to take his time to absorb the contents, including Allman's suggestions and advice, before meeting in person.
Wasson didn't want to wait, according to notes made by Allman at the time.
Wasson, who had been Carroll's head coach since 2007, called Allman's cellphone around 8 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2016.
"Well, normally, if I have something like this I need to say to someone, I say it face to face," Wasson told Allman.
"OK, if you want to get face to face tonight, I'll see you at the field house in 15 minutes," an upset Allman snapped.
"Why are you yelling?" Wasson asked.
"Because I've tried handling this without getting upset, and now you're speaking to me with the same disrespect as you do with your assistants, and I'm not one of your assistants," Allman responded. "I'll see you in 15 minutes."
The two sat for more than two hours discussing Allman's concerns addressed in his letter, according to Allman's notes. The concerns were in stark contrast to the glowing evaluations Wasson received from his principal, Shawn Duhon, who noted in his reviews that Wasson "exceeded expectations" in all categories.
Wasson, who was hired by Irving ISD on March 23, said he strongly disagreed with the content and tone of the letter, which he says was placed in his home mailbox without a stamp, presumably by Allman.
"I've moved on," said Wasson, who added that the ordeal was brutally hard on his family. "That's in the past. I'm excited about my new position. My family is stronger, my faith is stronger for going through it."
Allman declined to comment.
In his letter, Allman covered multiple incidents in which he accused Wasson of belittling assistant coaches. The letter was dated Sept. 18, 2016, almost a year and a half before Wasson resigned amid a school district investigation into the Dragon football program. Carroll was 2-1 and was coming off a bye week when Allman wrote the letter.
▪ "I’m concerned about the way our new coaches are being treated on the sideline during games. I’m also concerned that if they are being treated this way in public, it’s likely continuing at other times throughout the week. You have gone out of your way to humiliate them by criticizing their ability to coach, their enthusiasm, and their ability to 'fit in' to the Dragon culture. These attacks are extremely personal in tone and body language, and in each case I’ve seen, they are unwarranted."
▪ "Not only can I see the embarrassment on their faces, I can feel their disappointment in knowing that you have little or no appreciation for their commitment to be here and the hard work they are putting into the program and the kids on a daily basis. It’s also evident that these public displays of humiliation and criticism are selective in nature."
Allman accused Wasson of targeting newly hired coaches for his scorn, including those who had worked under Allman when he was head coach at Colleyville Heritage in 2015. One of the coaches singled out by Wasson was cornerbacks coach Clint Fuller.
▪ "If any defensive back gives up a pass, you typically go straight to Coach Fuller and he is told 'Do you have any idea what you are doing!?' You’ve said, 'These DBs don’t know what they’re doing, because their COACH doesn’t even know what HE’S doing.' You’ve even said, 'If you can’t coach any better than that, you won’t be around here much longer!' "
After the defense was fooled on a fake punt, Wasson berated Fuller on the sidelines, although the cornerbacks were not to blame, according to Allman.
▪ "Clint was screamed at in front of players, coaches, administrators, school board members and [redacted]. Everyone witnessing those humiliations, including parents and fans in the stands, are troubled by what they see."
Once face to face with Allman inside Carroll's football offices, Wasson's biggest concern, according to the documents written by Allman, was whether coaches had come to Allman directly with complaints. Allman denied that any had. Wasson told Allman that no assistant had ever come to him with any issues.
"Each concern is based on things I’ve seen with my own eyes," Allman wrote that he told Wasson. "There have been administrators and parents mention concerns and I'm at a point where I can no longer look them in the eye and say it's being addressed. That's why we're here."
Wasson: "Darren, this place is very unique and it’s a tough place to adjust to. I’ve always told people that Carroll won’t adjust to you — you have to adjust to Carroll."
Allman: "I disagree with that philosophy. I think it's our job as leaders to help new kids and new coaches adjust by making them feel welcome, important and trusted."
Wasson: "Since we’re being honest and getting it all out on the table, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve had people asking me about these guys being 'your guys' and that has bothered me."
Allman: "Hal, if you didn’t treat them differently from the others and you showed them respect, I'm sure people would consider them your guys. But, they may just be trying to figure out what’s going on. Who are these people you mention?"
Wasson: "It's former players."
Allman: "I know this … when we had four to five openings you asked me to help. All I did was give you suggestions. You and your coordinators interviewed several candidates for each spot. I was not a part of these interviews. You chose that group, along with your staff — not me. So why do you see them differently?"
Wasson: "Each one is a great coach and I wouldn’t trade one of them. I agree that they are all great and will do great here. But this is a hard place to fit into. The culture here is just different and the expectations are different. "
Later, he said: "I even had a tough year my first year and all of these coaches have a rough first year. It takes a while around here to build up trust. We have to coach at a different level here to be successful."
Allman wrote in his notes that he reiterated his opinion that players can be coached hard without "intimidation" and that coaches must "earn the right to coach a kid hard."
"We never fully agreed on this philosophy," as the meeting ended around 11 p.m., Allman wrote. "Coach Wasson agreed to work on the issues discussed in an attempt to make things better."
Allman told Wasson the contents of the letter and their conversation would remain confidential as long there was no retaliation toward any coach and as long as he understood the expectations. "He agreed," Allman wrote.
The next morning, however, during a meeting with his coaching staff, Wasson, Allman alleges, told his coaches: "That we have administrators in the district that want to change the culture of Dragon football. I will go to all measures to protect this culture and this program."
Allman also alleged that Wasson sent copies of his letter to then-offensive coordinator Mark Humble and former Carroll coach Clayton George, who was then the head coach at Tyler Lee.
Five days later, Allman noted, he became aware of "several troubling incidents that have taken place within the staff and program."
Wasson was put on paid leave in January as administrators investigated potential school district and UIL violations within the football program. Carroll reported violations to the UIL on Feb. 16. Wasson then resigned and reached a settlement with the school district on Feb. 25.