ARCADIA — Parents and football players at Arcadia High School have begun a petition campaign to win back the job of first-year Coach Alan Kaylor, who had a losing season but won wide support at the school.
Kaylor said he was asked to resign in late December after a 5-6 season. His supporters say his departure may send out the wrong message that winning on the gridiron takes a back seat to building character.
"I appreciate the attitudes he instills in the boys. I don't care if the team goes to the playoffs or doesn't," said a parent who asked not to be identified. "I want my son to learn values and to learn when the chips are down how to get up again."
After starting the season poorly, the football team rallied to win its final three conference games for its 28-year-old coach. But Kaylor's supporters spoke of the man more than his team's record.
"He was a leader and a friend, too. He treated us like men, not like kids," said junior player Rick Beranek, 16.
"He made us believe in ourselves," said junior Tim Anderson, 17. In letting Kaylor go after one season, he added, school administrators "didn't give Kaylor a chance. They really didn't."
Kaylor, who wants his job back, said he was asked to resign by Principal Jerry Barshay just before winter recess. He said that his understanding was that he would be fired if he did not resign. He says he intends to ask for a written explanation clarifying why Barshay did not want him to return. In the meantime, Kaylor will continue to teach math and history, though the district may elect not to renew his contract for the next school year.
School officials would not acknowledge that the resignation was forced. When contacted at home, Barshay said that he would have no comment until after school resumes Monday.
Barshay has the primary responsibility for making coaching decisions, said Athletic Director Dick Salter when contacted at home. "I don't know why Mr. Kaylor resigned," he added.
The football team's uneven performance, however, would not have been a factor, said Salter, who retired as football coach after the 1989 season. He closed a successful 20-year tenure with a conference championship, but he said he had lean seasons too, including one in which his team managed just one victory.
Winning "is not the main issue ever," he said, "unless the team's atrocious year after year. I know you have good years and bad years as far as wins and losses go."
The outlook for this past season was unpromising from the start. Because he wasn't hired until mid-May and had teaching commitments in Colorado, Kaylor could not join the team until the summer. He missed all of spring practice.
Shortly after Kaylor arrived, one longtime assistant coach departed, joining a second assistant who had already quit. One of the assistant coaches who left had wanted to be named head coach himself, said some players and teachers at the school. It was mid-season before Kaylor assembled a new staff.
"Our past coach did things one way for 22 years," said junior Steve Chiovare, 16. "When Coach Kaylor came in and did something different, nobody liked that. Kaylor passed the football, and for 22 years, Arcadia ran.
"Coach Kaylor wanted to change things because, he said, he was the head coach now."
Chiovare, for one, was won over, and he joined a dozen football players and about 30 parents in a meeting last week at the Arcadia Masonic Temple to discuss what they could do to keep Kaylor. One of the things that impressed the group was what Kaylor called the Arcadia Football Code.
"There is no place for hate or bitterness," the code reads. "Each of you as a player has a right to approach any coach, at any time other than on the football field, if you have any legitimate complaint. Further, it is not only your right, but rather it is your responsibility to communicate freely any concerns. . . . "
The code speaks of adhering to a higher standard of dress and behavior than other students. "Discipline in all facets of life will eventually lead to success," he wrote.
"For me, to be successful," Kaylor said in a recent interview, "it's the number of kids that go on to academic institutions or do whatever's in their heart, and be able to do their best. At the same time, I like to win, and a football coach that doesn't should get out of the business. But I think there's a greater measuring stick to use."
In the early season, Kaylor's philosophy bore little fruit on the field, in part because 34 of 48 team members were inexperienced underclassmen. After a close opening-game victory, the team lost five of its next six games, and was crushed by Pacific Conference rivals Glendale High School and Muir High School.
"We thought Kaylor was history after the fifth game," said parent Wayne Williams. "I was thinking that. A lot of people were thinking that."