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Fired Gate City coach: I feel I have no choice but to defend myself publicly no matter what the cost or consequences

George Thwaites • Mar 26, 2007 at 1:21 AM

HILTONS - Hugh Godsey is unhappy with the rumors and innuendos associated with his recent firing as the Gate City softball coach.

But the three-time state champion coach is no less unhappy with the official claim of insubordination that directly led to his dismissal.

"Even though I realize that by making this public statement that I might possibly be jeopardizing my teaching position and that I may be unduly harassed or scrutinized, I strongly feel that I must stand up and defend my name, my reputation and my character," Godsey declared Sunday during a news conference at his parents' home on the North Fork of the Holston River.

Godsey, who began coaching softball at Gate City in 1995 and led the Lady Blue Devils to state titles in 2002 and 2005, was officially relieved of his softball coaching duties during a closed session of the Scott County School Board last Monday.

Godsey's continued status as Gate City's girls basketball has yet to be determined. He has led the Lady Blue Devils to three consecutive Group A Final Four appearances, including a state championship in 2005-06.

"Several people spoke at Monday's open meeting about Coach Godsey's character. Character was never an issue," said Scott County School Superintendent Jim Scott, who was reached for comment late Sunday night.

"According to the guidelines in the contract, the school system can formally terminate a coaching contract with five days' notice. You don't have to have any reason," Scott said.

On Sunday, Godsey said the circulation of unsavory rumors about him and his program at least partially motivated his decision to speak openly about the matter.

"... I feel that I have no choice but to defend myself publicly no matter what the cost or consequences," Godsey said while reading a prepared statement. "When one of my precious elementary students says to me, ‘I saw where you got fired' and another asks ‘Why are you not the coach anymore?' and I don't know what to tell them, then it is time to stand up and defend myself.

"Also, when one of my former players is approached at college and asked ‘Are you one of those Gate City girls who had an affair with Coach Godsey?' - then I feel something must be done. Enough is enough."

Godsey also wished to express public support for acting softball coach Amy Bledsoe.

"There's a lot of rumors and accusations flying around concerning the new coaches, that they possibly had something to do with this behind the scenes," Godsey said. "I want to say that, at this point, I do not feel that way. I support Amy and Scott (Tipton) in what they're doing."

According to Godsey's extended statement, the chief bone of contention between himself and the main office was the disposition of a longtime assistant coach.

Godsey claims that last spring he was called to Scott's office in regard to an inappropriate remark allegedly made by the assistant coach to one of the softball players. Godsey described conducting a discreet investigation, including discussions with another player and her parents. He said he confronted his assistant, who denied making inappropriate remarks.

The assistant did remember "saying something to her about public displays of affection with her high school boyfriend one day before loading the bus for a game trip," wrote Godsey, who said he subsequently talked to that player's father.

"He indicated she had told him something was said that offended her but that now everything was okay. So that's how I left it," the statement reads.

Last summer, Godsey was notified that the assistant coach in question - who was not an employee of the school system - had been replaced by two recently hired female assistants. Godsey was subsequently informed that the former assistant coach "would not be coaching in any capacity, volunteer or otherwise, at Gate City High School."

Godsey said he vocally protested the decision, but agreed to inform the former assistant about the decision. Since the assistant in question had a daughter on the basketball team, however, it was Godsey's understanding that the former assistant had the same access to team activities as any other parent. This supposedly included open practice sessions.

After basketball practice began in November, Godsey said he responded to school administrators' concerns that the former assistant appeared to have been giving instruction during practice sessions. Godsey said he subsequently told the former assistant "he could not be giving any instruction to the players, even in the sideline or bleacher area."

Godsey said he was called to the superintendent's office on Nov. 27.

"He pretty much repeated what my Athletic Director had talked about earlier and I told him it was taken care of. I was instructed to make sure he was not doing any coaching and for us not to treat him or use him any differently than any other parent," Godsey's statement reads.

"After our discussion and as I left, Mr. Scott handed me a written letter about what we had just discussed and stating that he felt I had been insubordinate. I strongly disagreed and he indicated that he felt better now that we had talked and he knew the specifics."

Godsey said he believed he was doing as he was instructed by school officials, but he was later confronted by the mother of one of his players after Gate City's benefit scrimmage with Oak Hill Academy on Dec. 5. She indicated, Godsey's statement says, that she had been told the assistant wasn't to be around the players and that "she had a good case for a lawsuit against the school and the school board."

Godsey said he shared this conversation with Gate City administrators, adding that those discussions reinforced his confidence in his compliance with the superintendent's expectations.

On Feb. 9, Godsey said, he was shown a letter originating from the central office and signed by Gate City Principal Mike Brickey banning the former assistant from high school and middle school property without first obtaining permission from the principal.

According to Godsey, two incidents of concern were a practice session in which the former coach was used by a group of college and high school boys to scrimmage the girls team and a game trip where the assistant was allowed to ride the bus with the team.

"I immediately argued that those were both things that other parents have done and still do, and that my assistant coach and I thought nothing of these incidents. We were doing exactly as we were supposed to do," Godsey's statement says.

Godsey's statement concludes that he was in no way insubordinate to the superintendent and he should be allowed to resume his duties as head softball coach.

Scott declined to make any comment regarding the former assistant coach and, when asked, Scott reiterated that he felt strongly that Godsey had conducted himself in an insubordinate manner.

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