Two former coaches at a Wisconsin high school accuse the athletic director who was removed from her position last week of racial discrimination.
J.C. Dawkins, the former head football coach at Madison (Wis.) West High School, and Tommy Smith, who coached the freshman boys basketball team, publicly announced their accusations against former Madison West athletic director Sandy Botham in an interview with Madison’s WISC-TV. Dawkins and Smith are both African-American. Madison West announced Botham’s departure on May 4, less than a year after she took the position.
“I’m not in this to jump up and down as the angry black man and call people racist,” Dawkins said in a telephone interview Tuesday night with the Wisconsin State Journal. “I want to see that there are changes made.”
Dawkins’s contract was not renewed after the 2015 football season in which Madison West won only one game. Four of his assistant coaches, all of whom are African-American and also former University of Wisconsin players and graduates, also were let go, according to reports. The year before, Dawkins was named the conference coach of the year after leading the Regents to the playoffs.
Dawkins claims Botham targeted some of his African-American players and called one of them a “thug” in front of his peers in a hallway.
“If that’s appropriate behavior for an administrator at a high school, then I guess I’m the one that’s off-base,” Dawkins told WISC.
Following an open records request by WISC, internal emails from district administrators show they questioned why Dawkins was removed as coach. One official stated in an email that there was “no evidence (Dawkins) was told if he does not improve, he would be terminated.”
Smith filed a complaint with the Madison Police Department after an incident during a game on Feb. 25 in which he claims Botham grabbed him and “pushed me across the floor in front of at least 30 people,” according to the TV interview. Botham later admitted to Madison West’s principal that she put her hand on Smith’s back to try to move him off the court. Mediation was suggested but never materialized, according to the report.
Botham did not comment to WISC or the Wisconsin State Journal about the allegations. Last week, when her departure as athletic director was announced, she told the newspaper, “I can’t talk about it at this point.”
Rachel Strauch-Nelson, media and government relations director for the Madison Metropolitan School District, said in a statement to both WISC and the State Journal: “While we cannot comment on details of personnel situations, I can tell you that the district has conducted its own investigation of those issues and has taken appropriate follow-up steps.”