UPDATED: Spain Park athletic director announces retirement

Published 9:25 pm Saturday, August 28, 2010

Updated 5:08 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30

Spain Park High School athletic director Gena Morris announced her retirement Aug. 28.

Morris’ retirement announcement comes amid allegations of a physical altercation between Spain Park head football coach David Shores and a player at a team practice Aug. 24.

Morris, who said she has not been involved in the Hoover City School Board’s investigation of the incident, questioned its objectivity.

Morris, whose retirement will be effective Oct. 1, released the following statement:

“It has been a wonderful and rewarding ten years for me. I am proud of what has been accomplished in the men and womens athletic program as a result of remarkable community support, outstanding commitment from our students, and my many friends and associates here at Spain Park. After 10 years I am sad that I found it necessary to retire due to the lowering of the high standards which has guided Spain Park all these years. When politics and hidden agendas of some leaders in the Hoover School system begin to erode these standards and compromise the quality of our programs through the undermining of our Coaches and staff the high standards of this program can not be maintained. The recent investigation of our Head Football Coach has been inappropriately handled creating not only adverse impact on the reputation of our Head Coach but also that of our football team. I can not in good conscience sit idly by while this injustice is occurring. As the Athletic Director I have had no involvement in the investigation, have had no input into any decisions that have been made, and  I find it impossible to comprehend how I could be left out of such an important matter in our athletic department.  While I have loved my time at Spain Park it is obvious that I should move on, I will miss the wonderful students and the friends I leave behind.”

Hoover City Schools Superintendent Andy Craig said the investigation into the incident involving Shores is still ongoing as of Aug. 30 at 5 p.m.

“The review of the matter is still ongoing,” Craig said. “The school administration continues to pursue the facts surrounding this incident. The integrity of the process requires us to be thorough, careful and fair to all involved. As always, we want to be sensitive to our students and staff in our comments.  We are not in a position to elaborate further at this time.”

Morris, who has served as the Spain Park athletic director since the school opened, was named the Alabama High School Athletic Directors’ and Coaches’ Association’s Athletic Director of the Year following the 2007-2008 school year.

Morris oversaw three boys’ golf championships, two girls’ soccer championships, a boys’ tennis championship and a girls’ golf championship during her time as Spain Park’s athletic director. She was also the head of the athletic department during the Jaguars’ run to the Class 6A Final Four in boys’ basketball in Feb. 2007 and Spain Park’s appearance in the Class 6A football championship game in Dec. 2007.

First-year Spain Park High School principal Chris Shaw said the incident leading to Shores’ removal was an “on-the-field incident at the beginning of practice” Aug. 24. Hoover City Schools spokesperson Jason Gaston said Hoover City School Board officials don’t have a timeline set to address Shores’ coaching future at Spain Park.

“Coach Shores will likely remain on administrative leave until the investigation is absolutely complete. We don’t have a time line. We just plan to conduct as thorough an investigation as possible,” said Gaston.

Shores, who said he was attacked by a student-athlete at practice, has questioned the objectivity of the school board’s investigation. Shores said he expects to be reinstated as the Spain Park head football coach.

Here is Shores’ statement concerning the incident:

“I am shocked and disappointed by the handling of this entire situation, including the fact that I have been placed on administrative leave. A student-athlete on my team lost his cool and attacked me during a physical football drill at practice on Tuesday. I did not retaliate or otherwise fight back.  Other coaches pulled the student off of me and we sent him home. Apparently the board decided that an investigation of that incident was warranted, and it suspended the athlete and placed me on administrative leave pending the investigation. If the board conducts a proper and unbiased investigation, it will learn that neither I nor anyone else did anything to justify anyone being placed on leave or suspended or anything else.  No investigator or attorney has contacted me at this time, and I have not been notified of the details of the investigation.  I understand that the school board’s attorney has attempted to place every Spain Park football coach and every other employee under a gag order, and I have been told he has literally threatened them with their jobs if they talk to me. I was and still am willing to speak to the family and the player and work through this issue in hopes that the student-athlete could once again participate with his teammates. Hopefully this will be over soon and we can get back to our lives and back to focusing on educating these students and playing football. If not, the Spain Park students and our football team will be the ones that suffer, and I will not stand for that because I care for these kids, their well-being and our school. I expect to be reinstated soon.

Shaw said the school is conducting a thorough investigation.

“We are doing a thorough investigation,” Shaw said. “We’re doing our due diligence. It’s only fair to Shores and the players.”