Suds, Cards No Gamble at Many Schools; Though UC Coach Fired for Beer and Poker, Public Schools Would Only Do So for Illegal Behavior

Article excerpt

Byline: Chase Goodbread, The Times-Union

Wrong choice. Wrong punishment.

Wrong place. Wrong time.

When University Christian School dismissed football coach David King after he was seen playing poker and drinking a beer in a public establishment nearly two weeks ago, opinions varied whether people or policies were wrong.

But what about "wrong school?"

What brought about King's ouster at one school would not have even qualified him for any punishment at another. And at still other schools, any manner of disciplinary action in between might have been levied for the same cause. University Christian, a private school affiliated with University Baptist Church, gave King the most strict punishment possible. Yet reaction to King's firing suggests that UC might not have been the only local school to take the same action under the same circumstances.

King would have had the most protection in the public school system. In any Florida county, a public school would require -- and subsequently would have lacked -- legal grounds to fire a coach for a lawful, off-campus choice such as King's.

"If something happens off campus, [discipline] is involved only if it's illegal," said John Williams, director of professional standards for Duval County schools. "A DUI arrest would end up on my desk. [King's] thing wouldn't."

Duval County dealt with two conduct issues in the same year, 1997, when football coaches Mike Teifer and Rob Jennis were reassigned and later reinstated after separate, unrelated law investigations of on-campus conduct. Williams noted that while private schools may require less of a standard for firing, there are other standards to consider.

"All of our teachers are fingerprinted, and the prints are filed with the FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] and the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation]," Williams said. "I'm pretty sure not every private school can say that."

The state's board of education has conduct codes for school employees related to honesty, non-violence, being non-discriminatory and other behavior, but only within an on-campus context.

Members of the local coaching fraternity were quick to support King. Both public and private school coaches have tried to locate a position for King, perhaps with an assistant coaching role, as he searches for work while adding a sixth child to his family.

"The last time I checked, drinking and playing cards weren't on the Ten Commandments," said Sandalwood football coach Adam Geis. "I don't drink because I've never liked alcohol, but I can't imagine losing my job if I had a beer away from school."

Duval County athletics director Jon Fox has his own perspective.

"Without knowing more about [King's] situation, I think it at least behooves anyone to abide by a contract they've signed and be ready to deal with anything that's in it," Fox said.

Private school coaches losing their positions over conduct also are not without precedent. …