Football brawl: Referee report describes push from Huron coach, racial epithet from Huron player before incident
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
(Editor's note: This story contains language that will be offensive to some readers, including a racially charged term.)
According to the MHSAA’s official referee report from the Oct. 12 game, Huron head coach Cory Gildersleeve physically forced Pioneer coach Paul Test backwards during the postgame handshake. The report also reveals that a Huron player was ejected from the game prior to the melee for describing the Pioneer team with a racial epithet to a referee and throwing his helmet toward an official.
The referee’s report was included in Ann Arbor Public Schools’ investigation into the incident. Documents were obtained Monday by AnnArbor.com through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Gildersleeve -- who resigned as coach on Nov. 8 -- adamantly denied pushing Test to AnnArbor.com the night of the incident and in many emails to district officials and those involved with the football program since.
However, the referee’s report describes Gildersleeve as being verbally and physically combative toward Test after the game.
The report said that Gildersleeve approached Test after the game, accosted him during the postgame handshake and physically moved Test backwards.
The report reads:
“(Gildersleeve) Continued shouting in Coach Test’s face and would not release his hand. The word ‘f---’ was heard at least twice by officials in his verbal abuse of his opposing coach, as he was physically moving Coach Test backwards. He continued this action, despite an official intervening and attempting to separate the coaches. His actions were the direct cause of a retaliatory push by a Pioneer assistant coach and the start of a fight involving dozens of players, coaches and spectators on the playing field.”
(Click here to download a PDF file of the entire MHSAA referee's report. Best viewed at 200 percent, potentially offensive language not omitted.)
As previously reported by AnnArbor.com, the Pioneer assistant coach who struck Gildersleeve was linebackers coach Vince Wortmann, who has since been fired. In an email sent to Pioneer athletic director Eve Claar the morning after the brawl, Wortmann said he saw Gildersleeve “demonstratively berating Coach Test and physically pushing on him,” and said that he “ran over and pushed Coach Gildersleeve to remove the threat.”
Wortmann declined to comment when reached by AnnArbor.com Monday.
The referee’s report and Wortmann’s account appear to be in conflict with the account of Huron athletic director Dottie Davis -- who was near the coaches when the fight broke out -- and Gildersleeve.
In an incident report filed with the district, Davis said, “Neither coach touched one another and there was no physical altercation between the head coaches.”
Per directive from district officials, Davis declined to comment on any matter involving the brawl when reached by AnnArbor.com on Monday seeking clarification of her account of the events.
The reports also said Gildersleeve had to be “restrained by officials and fellow coaches” and told repeatedly to stop shouting “unsportsmanlike language” across the field during the game.
The report also said Test was restrained by officials while yelling back toward Gildersleeve at the end of the game and criticized Test for play calls at the end of the game. Ahead 35-6 late in the fourth quarter, Pioneer threw deep passes toward the end zone as opposed to running out the clock and ending the out-of-reach game.
Both Test and Gildersleeve were suspended by the MHSAA for their conduct after the game and given additional one-game suspensions from the district.
Gildersleeve could not be reached for comment on Monday. Gildersleeve is a physical education teacher at Huron. Test, a retired teacher, was reached on Monday, but declined to comment per directive from district, but the night of the game said Gildersleeve was pushing him.
The referee’s report revealed that the postgame brawl wasn’t the only reason for player suspensions. According to the report, with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, a Huron player, “began verbally berating opponents with profanity and had to be restrained by officials.”
The player was told to return to his bench by officials, at which point he, “threw his helmet at the feet of the Head Linesman and exclaimed ‘F--- it, throw me out, they’re a bunch of n------!” and was subsequently ejected and suspended from the next game.
Eight other Huron players were suspended for fighting along with six Pioneer players.
While four Pioneer players sat out the next game, an academically ineligible player - who did not play, but was on the sideline and was involved in the fight - was kicked off of the team permanently, as was an injured Pioneer player who used his crutch as a weapon during the brawl.
The report said the injured player was, “using his crutch as a weapon by striking an unidentified person, breaking the crutch.”
The Ann Arbor Police Department is still investigating the incident.
- (Click here to download a PDF file of the entire MHSAA referee's report. Best viewed at 200 percent, potentially offensive language not omitted.)