Despite Pozoâs denial, school officials cite WIAA rules infraction in deciding not to renew contract, give up honors
The Cedar Grove-Belgium girlsâ soccer program not only dismissed a coach last week, it surrendered its top two awards for the 2010 season â a share of the Central Lakeshore Conference chaampionship and a WIAA Division 2 regional title.
The Cedar Grove-Belgium School Board on June 23 voted not to renew the contract of head coach Papi Pozo after school officials decided he violated WIAA rules by using players in more than the 24 games allowed during the regular season.
As a result of the infraction, school officials also chose to forfeit the teamâs league and regional championships.
âIt was a unanimous decision,â School Board President Jim Lautenschlaeger said of the seven-member board vote following a closed session on Pozoâs coaching contracts for both the girlsâ and boysâ soccer programs.
âWe considered a lot of information that was presented to us. Once we took everything into account, we decided there was no other way we could vote.â
The boardâs decision came after administrators, including athletic director Dan Coopman, investigated allegations that Pozo used four players â three seniors and one freshman â in an excessive number of games by having them participate in four varsity reserve contests.
Under WIAA rules, players are limited to 24 total games for the regular season. The Cedar Grove-Belgium girls played 22 varsity games, limiting them to two varsity reserve contests.
Coopman said that a parent sent an e-mail to the district alleging the rule infraction. After the same parent sent a follow-up e-mail with more specific information, Coopman said, schools officials conducted a post-season investigation.
Coopman said Pozo denied the allegations, but the investigation concluded there had been an infraction.
âWhen we felt we were in violation, we self-reported it to the WIAA,â Coopman said. âTheir recommendation was that we forfeit the conference title and return the regional plaque.â
Coopman said âit didnât really matter if there was one girl or four girls involved.â
âOnce we determined at least one of them played in too many games, there was clearly a violation,â he said.
Pozo, who just completed his eighth year as the girlsâ coach and coached the boysâ team for six years, adamantly denied breaking any rules.
âI did not have any of my players exceed 24 games,â Pozo said. âMy assistant coach and I kept close watch on the books so that wouldnât happen.
âI didnât try to cover anything up. I sent my records to Dan and left it up to them.
âIâve been coaching soccer for 20 years. Do you think I would do something that stupid during the wonderful season we were having?â
Pozo said he was disappointed with the administrationâs recommendation and the boardâs decision and said the allegation came from a parent âwho has something against me.â
âIâve been coaching under a microscope for the last three years or so,â Pozo said. âThis just gave people who didnât like me an excuse to get me out of coaching.
âWhen I talked to the board, I knew they werenât going to keep me. I feel like I was left out there in the cold.â
Lautenschlaeger said the boardâs decision â after a closed session that lasted more than one hour â was influenced by but not entirely based on the investigation.
âThere were other factors out there,â he said. âWe discussed a number of things that had to do with Papi and the coaching job.âÂ Â Â
Lautenschlaeger called the decisions to let Pozo go and forfeit the championships âvery difficult and heartbreaking.â
âIt really pulls at the heartstrings, especially for the girls who worked hard all year long,â he said. âThis in no way reflects on their efforts or accomplishments.â
Lautenschlaeger also said Pozo deserves credit for his work with both soccer teams.
This year, the girlsâ team finished 19-5-2 and won its first conference title, which it shared with Howards Grove. In 2006, the Cedar Grove-Belgium boysâ squad advanced to the WIAA Division 3 state semifinals.Â
âI want to thank Papi for his many years of service. He gave a lot to the programs,â Lautenschlaeger said.
The district is accepting applications for the head soccer coaching jobs in both the fall boysâ and spring girlsâ programs.
Coaching contracts in Cedar Grove-Belgium and most other school districts are subject to annual reviews prior to renewal.