, Muskogee, OK

June 28, 2013

Muskogee athletic drama grounded in philosophy

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— Hints of this has been around for a while. Vacations — mine and at least one other — have slowed the surfacing of the details.

And here we are, late June and Bobby Jefferson’s tasks are now limited in the Muskogee Public Schools athletic department.

No longer is Jefferson the head wrestling coach. Given the choice by assistant superintendent Jim Wilson between keeping that job or his duties as athletic director which has been his since the late John Leafer’s retirement in 2003, Jefferson is now athletic director. The job of head wrestling coach posted last Wednesday.

Superintendent Mike Garde, who is vacationing this week, emailed a statement Thursday regarding the move.

“Our rationale for the change is that the district athletic director's duties are numerous,” it said. “Primary responsibilities include making sure all athletes are academically and otherwise eligible; coordinates sports schedules and facilities use; dealing with conflicts between coaches, athletes and parents; game management; helps hire, train,  and manage coaches; evaluates head coaches, works with players and parents; and reports to the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association to ensure the school's athletics program meets regulations.  

“The athletic director, puts in a lot of hours and has to be very committed. It is a full-time job.”

By phone Thursday, Garde said this idea “had been discussed for awhile.” Asked to specify what “awhile” meant, he then clarified. “Three years,” he said, adding that “Bobby had been aware of that desire.”

After several attempts to reach him on various personnel issues, Jefferson said Thursday he hadn’t committed to anything. He said he wanted to provide a detailed explanation of his position in writing and would email it, but that didn’t arrive before press time.

When it does, we’ll share that.

Just this year, the MHS wrestling team had to forfeit their dual state runner-up finish due to the discovery of an ineligible player, a point Garde mentioned on Thursday. Last fall, the district sought unsuccessfully to terminate Jefferson with accusations of fraud on timesheets. Those accusations were overturned during a termination hearing.

It’s a difficult situation.

On one hand, you’ve got a life-long member of the Rougher family, a baseball standout on the last state championship team and the leader of the most successful boys programs at the school in recent years. And he’s got coaches he’s brought in who have feelings of loyalty.

On the other hand, the superintendent is in the place to call the shots. And in this case, its a belief that Muskogee should come into line with some of the top 6A programs in a way that again, some within the program already share such a belief.

There might well be credence to that position. And, the ineligibility issue on his own program doesn’t give Jefferson a lot of wiggle room to counter Garde’s claims that an athletic director needs to have that as a point of focus. Add to that the history from the fall, even though that history showed no wrongdoing by way of the termination hearing.

But there’s 40 years 0f Rougher blood to respect.

The transition in wrestling may not be as difficult should Dan Jefferson, one of Bobby’s sons who was already the assistant head coach, gets the chance. Dan’s brother Shae Jefferson is also on staff.

But there’s got to be some undercurrents, given everything that has happened.

More than who does what, or how it’s done, the waters need to be stilled. And there’s a lot of waves out there right now.