Melendez: Backus saga has dragged on much too long

MIGUEL MELENDEZ COLUMN

This column appeared on page C2 in the Star-News sports section on Friday, Jan. 9

It’s been almost two months since Temple City football coach Randy Backus was put on paid administrative leave because of an alleged incident involving a student.

Since then, I’ve called Temple City High School almost on a weekly basis and have gotten little or no new information on how the Temple City Unified school board or the Temple City High administration are coming along.

Repeated messages to Superintendent Dr. Chelsea Kang-Smith went unanswered until someone from her office left a message at my office to say they wouldn’t comment. Temple City High principal Mary Jo Fosselman-King also did not return calls.

Athletic director John Van De Veere earlier this week said the school board and administration will come to a decision today (Van De Veere has agreed to call me when a decision has been made. It should be noted Van De Veere has been the only school official to comment on the matter).

As far as his job as an English teacher, Backus has long since been reinstated. Whether he continues as football coach or not is what’s being discussed.
I’ve talked to numerous coaches in the area about Backus and they all had nothing but good things to say about him.

That didn’t surprise me.

Just a few days after I accepted the preps sports editor position here at the Star-News, I got my first call on my company cell phone.

It was Backus calling on Aug. 5 just after 10 a.m. I remember vividly because I posted an item on my blog.

Backus dialed former preps editor Scott Galleti’s number figuring I’d get the same cell phone, and he was right.

“You mean I beat everybody to the punch,” a surprised Backus said at the time.
He did.

We spent a few minutes on the phone as he congratulated me on my new post and briefly interviewed me on my background as a sportswriter.

As a newbie to the area, Backus not only understood the need of having an amicable relationship between coach and reporter but also having a go-to guy for vast knowledge of football in the area. And Backus never was out of the loop.

He and I have had our small differences. Some of my questions during interviews with him during fall camp didn’t make sense, and I could tell he was frustrated by my tongue-twisting questions. It’s not that I didn’t know the sport but it did make me want to learn more about the teams, their past and the area’s football history.

As a young sportswriter I took Backus’ succinct answers and dedicated more time to know about the teams. I’ve since developed a better habit thanks to Backus.

So it doesn’t surprise me when coaches said they would like Backus to return. Heck, the players and current coaching staff I’m sure feel the same way. But the feeling here is none of his assistants will stay on board should Backus be asked to resign.

That’s too bad. Marty Valdes did an amazing job with the linemen, and what more can be said about Tim Loya’s steady, guiding hand during a powerful storm.

If Backus’ alleged incident was so terrible, the school board and administration would have come to a conclusion much sooner than where they currently stand.

Don’t forget. We’re not all that far away from spring football.

Would it really be wise to get rid of Backus and bring someone new who has no idea about the nucleus the Rams have developed over the last two months and led to a semifinal appearance in the CIF-SS Mid-Valley Division playoffs?

With the core of players expected to return, it would not serve the players nor the program any good to bring someone new to learn on the fly or blend into a chemistry that started with the man in limbo about his coaching status.

Remember, nobody on the current coaching staff — including Loya — works on campus. Only Backus.

The school board and administration have punished Backus enough by making him wonder whether he’ll return.

Given the harsh economy, I’m certain losing an extra pay check one has depended on for more than a decade would hurt anyone, would it not?

Does 14 years of loyalty to the school not mean anything?

While Backus battled sleepless nights, the school board seemingly has taken its sweet time and slept on this much too long for a father with a newborn to endure.

That should be punishment enough.

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4485