Newly hired ETSU coach reprimanded, docked for helmet slap
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Newly hired East Tennessee State football coach Randy Sanders will receive a letter of reprimand and will lose one week’s pay after slapping a player’s helmet during a practice last week.
Athletic director Scott Carter announced Sanders’ punishment Friday and said the coach has been reinstated following a university review of the March 30 incident. Sanders, a co-offensive coordinator at Florida State last season, had been on paid administrative leave during the review.
“Last week, I responded to a situation with poor judgment towards the end of practice,” Sanders said in a statement released by the university. “I immediately apologized to the player directly involved and to my team, and contacted my athletic director to explain everything that happened. Since that time, I have cooperated freely and fully with the university and its review of the situation. I accept the decision by the university and recognize that through my role I have an obligation to lead by example.”
According to the university review, the incident occurred as ETSU was practicing Hail Mary drills near the end of a March 30 practice.
A defensive player intercepted a pass during one drill and began running the ball out of the end zone. Sanders approached the player and told him not to run with the ball and instead just take a knee in the end zone. The player replied that he would take a knee in an actual game situation.
Sanders then slapped the player’s helmet. According to the report, the player became “visibly upset,” took off his helmet and pads and left the field while some of his teammates attempted to console him. Sanders said he tried to speak with the player but let him walk away after seeing the player’s reaction.
Carter said Friday the player involved is still part of the team. School officials haven’t identified the player.
Witnesses said the incident was surprising but many players noted they had seen “far worse disciplinary actions” in high school sports. All the witnesses said they didn’t consider the slap to be physically harmful and that it didn’t appear to be done with intent to hurt the player.
Investigators said they found no evidence of similar behavior by Sanders at any point in his career and that it appeared to be an isolated incident.
Sanders apologized to the team at the end of that day’s practice. Carter said at a Friday news conference that Sanders contacted him immediately after the practice, “letting me know he had made a very, very bad mistake.”
The Buccaneers concluded spring practice Thursday.
Sanders was Jimbo Fisher’s staff last season at Florida State. He was the Seminoles’ quarterbacks coach in 2013, when they won the national title while quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy.
He also has worked as an offensive coordinator at Tennessee and Kentucky.
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