Sunlake High is moving on from head football coach BJ Hall in the wake of a physical altercation between two Seahawks assistants at a recent practice.
In a recorded voice message sent out to parents, principal Kara Merlin said she and a school district representative met Thursday with Hall and informed him “it would be best if he stepped down as head coach.”
“I made it clear to Coach Hall that I wish him well, and I know that ultimately we all share the same goal, which is to do what’s best for our school and all of the students,” Merlin said in the voice message.
“Coach Hall’s departure is not entirely due to the incident involving his now-former assistant coaches. However, that unfortunate incident has resulted in negative national attention, divisions among parents, tensions within the Sunlake High School family, and most importantly, an immense amount of emotional stress on our players.”
Meantime, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office indicated an arrest is forthcoming as a result of the May 1 incident, which occurred in front of roughly 70 Seahawks players.
Neither the school district nor the sheriff’s office provided names of the assistants, but Sunlake offensive coordinator Connor Ferst told the Tampa Bay Times he was blindsided by another assistant coach during an offense-versus-defense drill that got heated, suffering injuries that required medical attention.
Hall was placed on administrative leave following the incident. Ferst, who works for the county as one of its substitute teachers (which are assigned through a third party), remains on the list of eligible county substitutes. The other assistant no longer is associated with the school district.
“Pasco Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate this incident and currently (has) probable cause to arrest one individual,” Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Britney Morris said in an email. “At this time, we have not been able to locate the individual to make the arrest.”
Nearly coinciding with Thursday’s announcement was an appearance by several Sunlake players and their parents at school district headquarters in Land O’Lakes. School district spokesman Steve Hegarty said superintendent Kurt Browning spoke briefly with the players and parents, who were there in support of Hall.
“I know that many parents enthusiastically support Coach Hall, and I’m also aware that others believe it would be best if we made a change,” Merlin said in her voicemail.
“In this type of environment, I believe it would be extremely difficult for Coach Hall to effectively lead the program. Coach Hall had made it clear that he was willing to continue, and we appreciate his willingness to do so. However, the current environment is not conducive for team success.”
Counting interim coaches, Sunlake now will be seeking its fourth head coach since the start of the 2022 season. Allen Suber was dismissed two games into last season and was replaced by interim coach John Gilmore as Sunlake finished 1-9. Hall, who played professionally in the Arena Football League, was hired in December after three seasons as an assistant at Zephyrhills Christian.
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Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls