Politics, playing time roils Red Wing football squad as coach quits

The coach of Red Wing High School’s football team has resigned, just a few days after a GOP politician said his son was punished for his politics.

The Republican Eagle newspaper says John Ott has quit, but won’t say why until later this week.

This week, John Howe, the former mayor and state senator and an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, complained to the school board on Monday that his son was targeted for being Republican on the winless football team.

“The reason I got involved is I found out that my son has been getting harassing comments from the coaching staff about being a Republican,” Howe said, according to the newspaper. “(David) didn’t share that with me, I found that out from another student’s parents.”

Howe’s son wanted to be the team’s quarterback but was moved to the offensive line even though he was the team’s backup QB last year and attended football camps over the summer.

“I talked to the coach about it and I’ve been told that since I’m a senior that I’m not going to be given the opportunity because I’m not the future of the program and another player is going to get it because they’re going to have him for more years and they need to develop him,” David said. “I’ve spent my whole high school career putting my time toward (playing quarterback) and I haven’t gotten the opportunity to do what I want to do. I’ve been told I’m not going to get it.”

Over Red Wing’s first five games, the team has played one quarterback while falling to an 0-5 record. At games, John Howe said he has seen these opposing teams play 13 different quarterbacks.

“There’s been some issues with other players and coaches. I know some of the players want back on the team and I believe they should get an opportunity to come back and play,” David said.

John Howe added, “One kid tried to come back to the team and the staff had the football captains decide if that individual should be part of the team. I don’t think it’s up to a juvenile, a set of juveniles or team captains to decide who’s part of the team and who’s not part of the team. I think that’s the role of the adults in the room and the administration and it shouldn’t be on the kids.”

When asked about playing time, Ott declined to comment.

In a Republican Eagle profile of Howe’s switch to a starter on the offensive line last month, he hinted at some displeasure.

“Coach said we needed more linemen, so he moved me to line. It was kind of like, we need you here,” Howe said. “I’ll do whatever is best for the team.”

[Update 10/11]- The Republican Eagle obtains a copy of the resignation letter:

“I cannot be employed by a district that allows parents to dictate where their child should be playing on the football field, nor can I consent to a parent to allow their child to continue to play football after their son has undermined the football team and staff by failing at a coordinated attempt to organize a walk out,” Ott wrote.

“Members of a team have a responsibility to behave on and off the field in a way to contribute to the team’s effort to be as successful as it can. As a coach, that is my responsibility to uphold that obligation with support from administration. I do not have that support. I have always had a policy of not discussing playing time with parents, yet I have been thrust into two such meetings by administration where playing time was allowed to be discussed.

“It is imperative that the head coach has the ultimate say when it comes to playing time, which is why playing time is addressed in the football guidelines that the parents sign consent to, before their son is allowed to participate. Having been forced by administration to have these playing time meetings has been particularly damaging to the football team.

“Finally, at no time has anyone in the football program in any way, shape or form harassed anybody about anything. These accusations have been made formally by John Howe in front of the school board on (Oct. 3). Nothing could be further from the truth. I am truly flabbergasted that a parent was allowed to speak at a recent school board meting, as it was in direct violation of numeral three of the school district’s public comment guidelines. Because of this, I am also choosing to resign as a teacher with the district. I cannot be part of a district that fails to follow its own guidelines.”