Beachwood High School will not rehire Damion Creel as its varsity head football coach for the 2019 season.
Creel, a 1994 graduate of Beachwood High School and two-time All-Ohio quarterback at the school, had been head coach of the Bison football program since June 2015. In three seasons as head coach, Creel had an 11-19 record at Beachwood, including a 6-4 record in the 2018 season.
Beachwood schools Superintendent Robert P. Hardis, athletic director Ryan Peters and Beachwood High School principal Tony Srithai announced the decision in an email addressed to football players and their families on March 18.
“We have come to the conclusion that bringing Coach Creel back would jeopardize the standing of our football program and that of its student-athletes and their families, who are highly invested in its success,” the email said. “The reason for this decision is rooted in the findings of an investigation into recruiting allegations made by an anonymous source several months ago.
“At the direction of the Board of Education, Superintendent Bob Hardis undertook this investigation and discovered that individuals Coach Creel kept extremely close to his football program for a long time were involved in actions demonstrating a pattern of influence over families’ enrollment in Beachwood Schools. Extensive and detailed circumstantial evidence supports this conclusion. Although Coach Creel has been witness to these individuals’ actions, he has either turned a blind eye to them because he did not care about the risks or he was concerned about the potential negative consequences of their actions, yet did nothing to address them. Either way, it is unacceptable to us for a coach to take such risks with our sports program.
“We are greatly concerned about potential (Ohio High School Athletic Association) sanctions as a result of these individuals’ actions and the negative impact they would have on the Bison football program, its student-athletes and their families. Beachwood’s football program, under Coach Damion Creel, has already been subject to OHSAA-imposed probation during the 2017 and 2018 seasons for previous recruiting violations. We will not place the program at further risk and so, a change in leadership is a step toward protecting its players and families. Please know that Mr. Creel remains an important member of our middle school teaching staff even if he is not coaching football for our high school.”
Hardis confirmed the school was making a recommendation to the Beachwood School Board to not rehire Creel, but declined to discuss personnel matters with the Cleveland Jewish News or elaborate on the school’s reasoning. He declined to explain why the school district felt it was appropriate to keep Creel as a middle school teacher but not as a football coach. He also declined to elaborate about the internal investigation, what it found or if the OHSAA was investigating the situation.
The school district has posted a job listing seeking a new head football coach. The deadline to apply for the position is April 15, though Hardis did not have a firm time frame for hiring a new coach.
Before joining Beachwood High School, Creel also worked as a coach at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights High School, Richmond Heights High School, St. Edward High School in Lakewood and Bedford High School.
In June 2018, Creel also began hosting the Light It Up Football Camp, in conjunction with Ted Ginn Jr. and the Ginn Elite Football Program. The inaugural year of the camp brought more than 200 athletes between the ages of 8 and 18 to Beachwood High School.
Creel provided the following statement to the CJN on March 21:
"As I teach my children and the students I work with, we can only control ourselves, our choices and our actions," said Creel in the statement. "I loved coaching football at Beachwood and was looking forward to the coming season. I went to work everyday with the goal of growing young men who believe in themselves and who learn how to handle adversity like this with respect. Coaching football is a big part of who I am. I was hurt and disappointed to learn that the superintendent won't be recommending to the school board that they renew my coaching contract. I gave my all to Beachwood, to the kids, their parents and to the football program. I am proud of the work that I did. I am proud of my players. Over the past couple days, I have been overwhelmed by the comments shared by parents and former and current players speaking to the impact I have had on their lives. This means everything to me. I teach and I coach to make a difference and my players are telling me that I did. There is a school board meeting on April 15th."