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Fennville football coach placed on leave

By Chris Zadorozny/The Holland Sentinel • Sep 12, 2017 at 6:23 PM

Fennville’s varsity football coach is now on administrative leave while the school investigates whether he committed wrongdoing in an incident last week involving one of his players.

Brian Sackett was placed on administrative leave Monday, the school district said in a statement sent to WZZM-TV and MLive. Sackett was involved in an alleged incident between him and one of his players on Sept. 8, during the first quarter of the Blackhawks’ 40-20 loss at Coloma in Berrien County.

Monday’s statement to WZZM-TV from Fennville Public Schools reads:

“Fennville Public Schools is taking appropriate steps to investigate an alleged incident between a coach and a player from the Sept. 8 football game in Coloma. We understand how sensitive these situations can be, and to protect the integrity of the investigation, the district has placed the coach on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The assistant coaches will lead practice for the team today (Monday). To be fair to all parties involved we will follow due process as we conduct the investigation and decide on an appropriate response. We are committed to providing the best possible experience for our athletes.”

Chris Hicks, a parent of one of the team’s players, said Fennville Superintendent Jim Greydanus asked him not to comment, but he said he will continue to say how he feels about the situation. Hicks said he was told by Greydanus that what the district ultimately decides to do might not be to Hicks’ liking, but that something would be done about the alleged incident.

Hicks originally told The Sentinel on Saturday that the alleged incident happened after a couple of Fennville and Coloma players were getting up after a tackle near the sideline. He said some words were exchanged and there was some shoving between players. They were then separated and the player in question was yelled at by an assistant coach, which Hicks said is typical and not the issue in question.

It was then that Sackett allegedly grabbed the player near the collar area of his jersey and shook him violently and screamed at him for 10 seconds, Hicks said. The player then broke free, but Sackett then allegedly pulled him back to continue to yell at him before the player broke free again.

Then Sackett allegedly nearly threw the player to the ground, but the player caught his balance. He took off his helmet and slammed it to the ground, Hicks told The Sentinel.

Sackett posted a comment on Facebook: “No excuse for my actions last night, I am deeply sorry for how I handled the situation, nobody is more upset or embarrassed about the situation than I am. ... The circumstances of the incident last night don’t matter, the fact is that I should have handled it better.”

The father of the player voiced his displeasure with the coach for the treatment of his son immediately after the incident, Hicks told The Sentinel.

The family of the player was told by the school to not give a statement due to the investigation, Hicks said.

Greydanus and Fennville school board President Dave Johnson did not return The Sentinel’s requests for comment.

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