Supporters of former baseball coach Marv Matteson spoke at the Iroquois Central School District meeting Monday night in an effort to persuade the board to reinstate Matteson for the 2020 season.
Matteson, 77, was informed in July that his contract would not be renewed for what would have been his 54th year of coaching in Western New York.
More than 60 people attended the meeting, including nine returning players from the varsity baseball team wearing their red Iroquois Chiefs ball caps, and Matteson’s wife, Phyllis, who recorded video of the public comments for Matteson to view at home.
“The response has been hugely positive,” said Jeff Bowen, the Iroquois baseball parent who initiated the social media campaign.
Bowen said he met with Iroquois superintendent Douglas Scofield and two members of the school board last week but did not get any more clarity on why Matteson’s contract was not renewed. He added that he is not optimistic that the district will change its position.
“I got a very clear feeling that their minds were made up. They weren’t going to budge,” Bowen said. “They were going through their paces here trying to keep everybody happy and give everybody a chance to speak.”
Scofield reiterated Monday that he could not disclose details of the district’s decision not to renew Matteson’s contract, citing confidentiality rules regarding personnel matters.
Matteson told The Buffalo News last month that he believes his contract was not being renewed because of accusations of bullying by “vindictive” parents of two junior varsity players who threatened a lawsuit. According to Matteson, the parents were upset over the players' not being included in the team’s annual spring training trip to Florida and the possibility that they would not make the varsity team next season.
Five people spoke on Matteson’s behalf for a total of 33 minutes before the board took a recess and returned to discuss the rest of its monthly agenda.
The speakers were: Dave Schopf, athletic director at Christian Central Academy who played basketball and coached with Matteson at Kenmore East; Maura Birdd, director of the Iroquois Baseball Boosters; two avid supporters of WNY baseball in travel coach and media contributor Tom Prince and Terry Kunick, a former Iroquois school board president; and Sal Buscaglia, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame inductee who coached women’s basketball at Robert Morris University, the University at Buffalo and Hilbert College.
Schopf shared how he grew up in a broken home with an alcoholic father. “Marv was my second dad. He was always there for me,” he said.
“As a coach, Marv is just a first-class person with high character who treats all athletes the same,” Schopf said. “If I had a young son right now … I would want Marv to be the first coach that he would be able to play for.”
Introducing herself as an adamant supporter of Matteson, Birdd said she was “still in disbelief that a coach with his longevity and record is not being allowed to return for one more year. … The Iroquois baseball program has gained so much under the leadership of coach Matteson.”
Prince told the board that most baseball coaches who have sustained the level of success Matteson has had at Iroquois for nearly two decades “are being recognized in the Hall of Fame because of it. You have a Hall of Fame coach.”
Matteson was inducted into the Ken-Ton Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. Kunick said Matteson has been nominated for the Section VI Hall of Fame’s 2020 class and is a “no-brainer” for induction.
After coaching baseball, basketball and cross-country at Kenmore East for 34 years, Matteson took over the baseball program at Iroquois in 2001. Last spring, the Chiefs won the Section VI Class A-2 championship for the second time in four seasons and Matteson was named ECIC III coach of the year.
The most passionate comments came from Buscaglia, who spoke for more than 15 minutes, challenging and questioning the board’s decision-making process.
Buscaglia, who also spoke at the board meeting in July, retired from coaching in 2016 and said he has attended almost every game since his grandson started playing for Iroquois as a seventh grader.
“You’re listening to a few people, three, four, I don’t know how many,” Buscaglia said. “But you’re not listening to the important ones. These kids sitting in the front row there, and some in the back, you’re not listening to them.”
Evan Yandricha, an Iroquois junior who played varsity baseball last season, said after the meeting that he and his teammates remain unsure why Matteson is not being allowed to continue coaching the Chiefs.
“They never gave us a reason,” Yandricha said. “And that’s all we really want — some sort of explanation for what happened.”
Scofield said the board would discuss Monday’s public comments in executive session.
“The district and board members and myself are always very happy when residents come out to express their comments, concerns and support in any area,” Scofield said. “We always discuss the information that was presented. I’m always willing to have the possibility of changing any decision we make. It just depends on how the information we get weighs against any other information we have.”