EDITOR’S NOTE: We will update this story as more information becomes available.
MIAA investigates player misconduct at Super Bowl
By Dave Forbes and Bob Schron
Turley Publications Sports Writers
WARE – Less than two weeks after its greatest victory, the Ware High sports program was in shock.
Ware varsity head football coach and Athletics Director Mike Robidoux resigned from his position last week. Robidoux submitted his resignation to Superintendent Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Beach. Dr. Beach has adamantly denied that Robidoux had been forced to resign.
“There may have been a number of assumptions,” she said. “But it was not a forced resignation. That is absolutely not true.”
Dr. Beach also said that Robidoux did not resign as football coach. However, because it is a one-year appointment he would have to reapply for the position in the spring.
“We would gladly accept his application if he wanted to apply for the position,” Beach said.
The resignation comes amid reports of an incident that allegedly took place after Ware defeated Pioneer Valley, 14-8, in the Super Bowl at Westfield State, Dec. 5. After the tense, emotional overtime win, played in near-blizzard conditions, the administration of Pioneer Valley claimed that there was an unsportsmanlke incident after the game.
In a letter to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), Pioneer Valley reportedly protested that there were unsportsmanlike actions during the ritual handshake, which took place after the game. The procedure states the accused school has an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
There was a site manager from the MIAA at the game. However, because of the weather, that manager was attending to an injured person. There was no official witness to the reported incident. It was an emotional contest. The teams had played a close, down-to-the-wire contest during the regular season, won by Pioneer in the final seconds in Ware, 20-16.
During the week leading up to the game, PV quarterback Pat Viencek was quoted in a regional newspaper implying that Ware was the second best team.
The alleged statement only added fuel to the fire. But afterward, during Ware’s onfield celebration, Viencek approached the huddle of the Ware players.
“He [Viencek] acted classy,” Robidoux said in an interview before his resignation announcement. “He said he was misquoted.”
Robidoux was unavailable for a response to this story.
Dr Beach continued, “I don’t know what happened. We do know that there were specific instructions that after the game, both teams were not to go back to the locker rooms. They would go immediately to their respective buses. But because of the weather, that may have changed.
“But we looked into the incident, carefully. Because of the [Pioneer Valley] letter, we found out there was an incident at the game.
“But it was emotional. We don’t want to get into ‘he said, she said’ situations.
Ware High School Principal Lucille Brindisi headed the internal probe. She talked to the kids and the coaches. “We’re into facts. But it’s emotional. People are emotional. There’s so much you can’t be sure of.
“But after reviewing it, I was satisfied with what we found.
Brindisi then sent a letter in response to the MIAA, which was not disclosed to the press.
Calls made to Athletic Director Gina Johnson of Pioneer Valley and the coach of the team, Mike Duprey, had not been returned as of press time.
“This is really, really disappointing,” said Dr. Beach.
She has been an active supporter of the athletic program. Under the administration, which included Robidoux, the program made important strides. In his fourth year, Robidoux presided over a near Western Mass champion in girls basketball, a dramatic turnaround in volleyball, wherein the girls made it to the semi-finals of Western Mass in 2009. The crowning event was this fall. With a football team numbering less than 25, the Indians finished with an 11-1 record. It included back-to-back wins over Palmer and the thrilling victory over Pioneer Valley earlier this month. Though there was this reported incident, a source close to the situation claimed that there had been cumulative pressure all autumn on Robidoux. Robidoux had been forthcoming in a brief interview with The Ware River News Dec. 14 in which he hadn’t disclosed any apparent problem. In contrast, he noted how proud he was of the players. “The feeling in the community is tremendous,” he said at that time. “People are still saying to me how happy they are that we won.”
Beach said she hoped to have a new athletics director in place by the Christmas break, which started on Wednesday. As of late last week, two people had already applied for the position.
“We wanted to be able to get someone in place as quickly as possible,” Dr. Beach said. “We were fortunate that the winter schedule was already in place. We only had to work on getting one game scheduled.”
The appointment of the new athletics director will be effective until the end of June 2010 and he or she will be paid the prorated amount of the $6,863 position.
Over the summer the position will be re-advertised and a new one-year appointment will be made in time for the 2010-2011 school year.
Bob Schron is a sports correspondent for Turley Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 413-967-3505 ext. 104.
Dave Forbes is the sports editor for Turley Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 413-283-8393 ext. 237.