Wave’s top job: Regroup quickly

By GENE PHELPS
Daily Journal
TUPELO – A Tupelo football team needing to win out to possibly reach the postseason will be without its head coach, Eric Collins, as it plays a Division 1-6A game tonight against DeSoto Central.
The six-year Golden Wave coach was suspended Thursday for an alleged violation of district policy.
Junior defensive end P.J. Jones said he doesn’t think Collins’ suspension will affect his team’s outlook headed into the game
“We’ve faced adversity all year,” the player said moments before the start of Thursday’s walk-through practice session at Golden Wave Field. “This has been a rebuilding season for us.”
Tupelo’s team did not officially hear of Collins’ suspension until the start of practice. The news came from athletics director Danny Porter.
Lamar Aldridge, the team’s defensive coordinator, has been named the interim coach. He spoke to the team briefly after Porter.
“The kids want to play and I think they’ll go out and play hard,” Aldridge said Thursday night. “I expect them to get after it. Kids are resilient. I think the’ll be fine.
“As for me, I just want to do what’s best for these kids.”
Tupelo, a team that returned just two starters from last season’s 8-4 club, enters the game with a 1-6 overall record and a 1-3 division mark. After tonight’s game the Wave faces division games at Horn Lake (Oct. 30) and home against Olive Branch (Nov. 6).
In three of the losses, Tupelo misfired on three plays that could have led to victories.
“We’ve had a couple of breakdowns here and there or we’re sitting in good shape,” offensive coordinator Andy Crotwell said. “This is not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination.”
However, Crotwell said the team will have to make some adjustments in Collins’ absence. Collins is in charge of special teams and relays Crotwell’s play calls to the quarterback.
“It’s a challenge to figure out how some things are,” he said. “Somebody will have to keep up with special teams, but (Collins) had help with that.”
Assistant coach Michael Stroup will take over the job of relaying Crotwell’s offensive calls to the quarterback.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Crotwell said.

Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com.

UPDATE: Tupelo’s head football coach suspended

- The action involves an alleged violation of district policy, not criminal conduct, the Tupelo superintendent said.

BY JOHN WILBERT
Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo High School football coach Eric Collins was suspended indefinitely from his coaching duties Thursday by the Tupelo Public School District.
He will not be on the sidelines for tonight’s homecoming game against DeSoto Central.
The suspension was the result of an alleged violation of district policy, but few details were offered in a hastily called 3 p.m. news conference at the school.
TPSD Superintendent Dr. Randy Shaver said Collins, who is in his sixth season at the school and also teaches physical education classes, “remains a teacher in good standing.”
A TPSD statement said Collins had been “suspended from his coaching duties pending the completion of an investigation in accordance with district personnel policies. The suspension is due to his alleged violation of district policy.”
Shaver emphasized that the suspension did not result from unlawful or criminal conduct.
“I will tell you categorically no, and I want you to pay particular attention to the statement that the suspension is due to his alleged violation of district policy; it has nothing to do with criminality,” Shaver told reporters.
Lamar Aldridge, the Golden Wave’s defensive coordinator, will serve as the interim head coach for a 1-6 team that has three regular-season games remaining on its schedule. No timetable has been set for completing the investigation, Shaver said.
The majority of the Tupelo players found out their head coach was suspended when the school’s athletic director, Danny Porter, told the team before Thursday’s practice.
Shaver said at the news conference that Collins “is not allowed contact with the football team during this suspension.”
Both Porter and THS Principal Mac Curlee declined comment.
There was no word Thursday on whether Collins will appeal his suspension. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. WTVA reported Collins will appeal the decision.
“The personnel process is that the school level typically makes a recommendation or completes an action,” Shaver said. “The individual employee then has the right to appeal to the superintendent, and at that point, depending on whether or not due process has been violated, they can make a further appeal to the school board.”
Shaver said he “wouldn’t want to venture a guess on how long it would take us to conduct the investigation. Coach Collins has been informed that it is ongoing. He is supportive of that.
“I think that it’s important to him and to the school and to the integrity of the athletic department and the school system that we do as thorough of an investigation as possible to protect him, to protect our program.”

Report From Thursday:
The Tupelo school board has confirmed the suspension of Tupelo High School head football coach Eric Collins for a violation of district policy. He will not coach the Golden Wave in Friday’s homecoming game against DeSoto Central.
The Daily Journal first reported the disciplinary action on Thursday at its Web site NEMS360.com. A news conference was conducted Thursday afternoon at the Tupelo Public Schools District central office.
Few details were given about the suspension, including its cause or duration. School officials did underscore, however, that no accusations of criminal behavior were behind the suspension and that no legal charges are pending.
Defensive coordinator Lamar Aldridge will serve as interim coach for Friday’s game and conducted practice Thursday afternoon.
Collins remains as a teacher in good standing at the high school.
Collins was in his sixth season at THS and his team is 1-6 overall and 1-3 in Division 1-6A play. The former Chalmette, La., coach replaced Phil Ferguson in 2004 as head coach.
The Golden Wave has two more games remaining after this week – at Horn Lake (Oct. 30) and home against Olive Branch (Nov. 6).
Late Thursday, Aldridge responded to an interview request from the Journal.
“The kids want to play and I think they’ll go out and play hard,” he told Gene Phelps.

We’ll have more on the story in Friday’s Daily Journal newspaper.

NEMS Daily Journal