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Parents, players speak out following Austin-East coach removal

5:59 AM, Jan 24, 2012   |    comments
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The conversation in the Austin-East High School community this week isn't about next year's football season; instead it's about about football coach Robert Gillard, who was removed from his coaching duties.

"I started hearing stuff Friday, and today. Everybody is talking about it," Junior Jawon Dickey said, upon hearing the news of Gillard's dismissal from the team. Dickey is a right tackle on the varsity squad.

"He was a father figure. He taught people respect, motivation, and focus," he added.

According to a letter in Gillard's personnel file, Athletic Director Alvin Armistead confronted the coach about a 2011 recruiting trip to Murfreesboro with students and a parent. The letter said there was a "lack of professionalism" on Gillard's part concerning the trip. 

Gillard said in the written statement, "I told the parent there may a chance once I got there, I will go to Jackson to check on my daughter." It's not clear from the file if the parent filed a complaint.

Armistead also accused Gillard of using inappropriate language during the telephone conversation, including multiple curse words twice.

Gillard admits in his written statement that he cursed at Armistead, but said Armistead also cursed at him.

In a follow up meeting last Tuesday with Gillard, Armistead and Principal Benny Perry, Gillard allegedly told Armistead quote, "I'm gonna take care of you." He said it moments before being removed from his coaching capacity at the school.

He was escorted off the school property later that day.

When human resources questioned Gillard about that statement, he said that was referring to a list of wrongs he intended to make about the Austin-East football program.

Despite what the letter said, Austin-East parents said they still stand behind Gillard.

"They should give him another chance, they should reprimand him in a different way. He didn't deserve it," said Lanema Bruce. Her son played under Gillard.

Other parents said Gillard was a good teacher. The personnel file shows good marks for Gillard on performance evaluations.

"I think he loved the kids, and how it's grades before sports, and how it's sad they would do this to him," said parent Stephanie Molden.

Now, players like Jawon Dickey wonder who will help lead the Roadrunners to another winning season.

"We just have to stay focused. We just have keep our heads up and play," he said.

According to Knox County Schools, Gillard remains a teacher at Austin East but is on paid administrative leave. 

Previous Story: "Austin-East football coach fired for using bad language"

For the second time in less than two years, one of Knoxville's most storied high school football programs is looking for a new head coach.

Coach Robert Gillard has been removed from his coaching position at Austin-East High School.  He is also on paid administrative leave as a teacher at the school.

According to a letter in Gillard's Knox County personnel file, he was relieved of his duties as head coach and escorted from Austin-East's buildings almost a week ago.

The action came after Gillard took students and a parent on a recruiting trip to Murfreesboro.

According to the letter, On January 13, Athletic Director Alvin Armistead confronted him by phone and accused Gillard of using inappropriate language.

In a follow up meeting last Tuesday with Gillard, Armistead and Principal Benny Perry, Gillard allegedly told Armistead quote "I'm gonna take care of you."

Gillard's hand-written response said Armistead was "a frat brother and friend" and he says he was "shocked by the meeting" by phone on the 13th.

Gillard admits in his written statement that he cursed at Armistead, but says Armistead also cursed at him.

Editor's note:  A previous image identified as Robert Gillard was incorrect.  The correct photo is now attached to the story.  We apologize for the error. 

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