By Miguel A. Melendez
TEMPLE CITY — Temple City High School fired head varsity football coach Randy Backus on Monday, two months after an incident in which school officials said he grabbed a student and cursed at him.
Temple City High athletic director John Van De Veere said the decision to fire Backus was unrelated to the November incident, which did not involve a football player.
“Randy put his hands on a student inappropriately — not sexually — and threatened the individual,” Van De Veere said. “The way I understand it, Randy came out of the locker room and the kid wanted to go in. As Randy was about to close the door, the kid threw his backpack to hold the door open, and that’s when he grabbed the kid and used foul language.”
The student involved was 18 at the time but decided not to press charges and was not himself disciplined, school officials said. No police report was filed, although another student did witness the incident.
Backus said he was “greatly disappointed” about his firing after just two seasons as head coach.
“The reasons were not directly given to me,” he said. “I requested a meeting last week to talk about these issues and I have not had a meeting. That is why I had not resigned. I was not given a chance to defend myself.”
The high school’s administrators and the Temple City Unified School District board of trustees made the decision to fire Backus, who has served as a coach at the school for 14 years.
However, Van De Veere said that decision was based on school officials’ overall dissatisfaction with Backus’ performance as a head coach.
“We want to go on a different direction,” Van De Veere said. “We just felt that some things the past two seasons were not exactly what we wanted, both on and off the field.
“It was kind of one of those things where we’re asking ourselves if this is the type of person we want leading our football program.”
Temple City High Principal Mary Jo Fosselman-King said Backus never spoke to her directly about meeting.
“He didn’t make that request with me,” she said. “Randy did a lot of great things. I’m just going to (say) that we decided to go in a different direction. I don’t want to get into specifics, but I’d be happy to meet with Randy.”
Although Backus won’t be coaching anymore, he will remain at Temple City as an English teacher, she added.
“They’re completely separate,” Fosselman-King said.
Following the incident with the student, Backus was put on leave with one game left in the regular season last fall. He did not coach or take part in practices thereafter. The Rams’ memorable playoff run ended in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division.
Backus was reinstated into his teaching job on Dec. 15 on the condition that he be involved in no other incidents, Van De Veere said.
Backus had been disciplined once previously. School officials held him out of spring practice last year for using foul language, Van De Veere said.
“It was taken out of context,” Backus said of that incident. “I did not use profanity this year.”
Backus defended his performance as head football coach.
“I had no complaints whatsoever from parents this year in regards to the language. Could I have taken a better job in attendance? Yes. Was there a lack of supervision? No. Was there a lack of discipline? Definitely not — it is absolutely false,” he said.
Van De Veere said Backus was given the option of resigning before his termination.
“We gave him a chance to go out gracefully. Resignation would have been a graceful way to go out.”
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