After announcing in March that Beachwood High School would not rehire head football coach Damion Creel, Superintendent Robert P. Hardis and the Beachwood School Board appear ready to make a 180-degree reversal and vote to retain the coach at a special meeting on May 23.

The agenda for the special meeting, which was scheduled for 8 a.m. May 23, includes a resolution approving Creel’s supplemental athletics contract for the 2019-20 school year. He would be paid $8,164.20 on top of his teaching salary if the resolution is approved by the school board. Creel was paid the same salary for the 2018 and 2017 football seasons. He has been head coach of the Bison since June 2015 and is a 1994 graduate of the school, earning All-Ohio honors in football twice. In three seasons as head coach, Creel has an 11-19 record, including a 6-4 record in the 2018 season.

The potential for Creel’s return has been brewing for a few weeks. On May 14, Hardis confirmed to the Cleveland Jewish News the board of education would re-engage Creel and his attorneys in a discussion about returning as football coach.

“I communicated out to our football players and their families that the board of education will be entering into discussions with Mr. Creel and his attorney about the prospect of him returning as head football coach,” Hardis said May 14. 

At the time, Hardis was unable to provide a timeline for when Creel’s contract would be finalized. He said he “can’t answer” why the district made the decision to re-engage with Creel and refused to comment when asked if the district had received additional information that changed their minds about Creel. When asked what circumstances had changed for Beachwood since the decision to not retain Creel was made on March 18, Hardis said he had no comment. He said the decision to re-engage was made at a special board meeting on May 10.

Athletic Director Ryan Peters, Beachwood High School Principal Tony Srithai and Hardis originally announced Creel would not be rehired in an email sent to football players and their families on March 18. In that email, Hardis, Peters and Srithai wrote they had “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 also stated that while Creel would not be retained as head football coach, he would remain as a physical education teacher in Beachwood’s middle school.

“The reason for this decision is rooted in the findings of an investigation into recruiting allegations made by an anonymous source several months ago,” the letter continued. “ 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.”

After the announcement Creel would not be rehired, a groundswell of support began building for the coach. Many current and former Beachwood High School football players, as well as parents, students and other community members wrote comments of support and spoke at school board meetings in favor of retaining Creel. A small demonstration in support of Creel was also held at the corner of Fairmount Boulevard and Richmond Road on May 10, the same day the school board decided to re-engage with Creel.

It is both unclear when Beachwood schools decided to reverse its decision and why the school system made this decision in the first place. 

Creel has not commented publicly on the situation since making a statement to the CJN on March 21. 

Neither Hardis nor Peters returned messages seeking comment.

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