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COLUMN

Bishop Luers' firing of Lindsay sad, stunning

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For more sports commentary, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

Both coach and school remain silent on reasons

Monday, September 17, 2012 - 5:33 pm

The news broke, my editor called and I had to place a phone call I'd rather never make. I dialed Matt Lindsay's number.

We said hello and I got right to the point.

“There's a rumor that you've been fired,” I said.

“True,” Lindsay said.

With that typical Lindsay no-nonsense response came confirmation that the most successful high school football coaching career in Fort Wayne history was over. Lindsay is no longer Bishop Luers' coach and athletic director. Just like that.

There will be no farewell retirement press conference, no gathering of former players to tell stories, no handshakes all around. Instead, we have a press release that says Lindsay's employment was terminated “as a result of his violations of school and Diocesan policies, and his violations of his employment contract obligations.”

Whatever actions led to Lindsay's firing, he's not saying and neither is the school. He was placed on administrative leave last Thursday and fired on Sunday, the release said. Sounds like a long weekend for everyone.

“The only thing I can say is that the 33 years I spent at Luers have been awesome,” Lindsay said. “I love the people and I wish them all the best. It's been a great ride.”

Now the man's career is over in an instant, his legacy tainted by the firing, even if none of the rampant whispers about why are ever confirmed for public consumption. Lindsay doesn't want to discuss it. Bishop Luers Principal Mary Keefer passed on elaboration or discussion, too. “I don't have anything to say,” she said.

I don't know what Lindsay did. People make mistakes. They make the bad choices. Obviously, something happened that was deemed serious enough to cost him his job. As a private school, Luers has a right to keep the specifics private. Unless Lindsay wants to explain it someday, which doesn't seem likely from our conversation, or his actions involved a criminal matter, it'll remain private.

No matter what, it's an abrupt and disappointing end to an impressive coaching career.

Lindsay, who graduated from Bishop Luers, built a Fort Wayne and state record that will keep his name around long after people forget his unceremonious exit. In 26 years as Luers head coach, Lindsay compiled a record of 229-99 (230-99 if you count son Kyle's win on Friday as interim coach). He led Luers to nine state titles, including the last three in a row.

Lindsay's ninth title tied him with Larry “Bud” Wright for the most in Indiana history. Wright is still at Sheridan, having won his most recent title in 2007. Lindsay was also an assistant when Luers won the state title in 1985.

Lindsay's personality was often a topic among reporters, fans and opponents. He possesses a dry sense of humor and is not the type of coach to schmooze. Keefer expressed to me in an interview three years ago that he's really a “teddy bear,” that his outside demeanor belied his heartfelt concern for students and athletes.

Regardless, Lindsay knew how to direct a football program to success, molding Luers into a power that could compete with the bigger schools in the Summit Athletic Conference before often dominating Class 2A teams in the postseason. Some of his players, including Anthony Spencer (Dallas Cowboys) and current player Jaylon Smith (a Notre Dame recruit) rose to national prominence in football.

Those players were undoubtedly as shocked as the rest of Fort Wayne's sports fans to learn that Lindsay had been fired as coach. Players generally aren't na´ve enough to think their coaches are perfect. But they do often look up to them as role models, and this will be a stunner.

On a side note, Lindsay's departure leaves the football program in a state of limbo. Will Kyle Lindsay remain the interim football coach, given his father's dismissal? Will another assistant take over? Will an outsider come in? These decisions have yet to be made.

It would be easier to understand this situation if the details were public. Then we could judge Lindsay's conduct and Luers' consequences by the facts.

We have exactly one fact today: Matt Lindsay is out at Bishop Luers. Hard to believe, but true.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com