May 21. 2013 9:05PM

Alleged taunt

Board benches Franklin football coach; supporters angry

Union Leader Correspondent

In a captured image of video provided by a Friends of Franklin Football member from the championship game last fall between Franklin and Mascoma, a Franklin player allegedly taunts a Macoma coach at the end of the teams postgame congratulation line. (COURTESY)

FRANKLIN — The mayor, members of Friends of Franklin Football, and present and past players are upset that the school board has not rehired head football coach Greg Husband after his players allegedly taunted a Mascoma coach when Franklin won the championship last fall.

Husband, who has led the team to four championships — winning two — in his nine years as head coach, was not rehired as the team’s coach in a closed-session personnel session last month. He was replaced with his assistant coach, Jeff Kaplan.

The school board was acting on a report by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association on the events following the Nov. 10 Division IV Championship game held at Hanover High School, which Franklin won. After the game, Mascoma team officials filed a complaint against their Franklin counterparts, alleging that Franklin players taunted them and used foul language.

An NHIAA sportsmanship investigation into the incident found “clearly inappropriate behavior” that “was not well handled by the Franklin coaching staff” after the game’s end. An added factor, the NHIAA said in a letter to the school board, was the Franklin school administration’s “disappointment with the absence of any remorse or accountability for the student behavior.”

“It was also shared (by the Franklin high school staff) that a number of the same student athletes … continued to be problems in terms of behavior and sportsmanship as members of the school’s basketball team the following season,” wrote R. Patrick Corbin, executive director of the NHIAA, in a letter March 27.

Corbin said the committee instructed him to inform Franklin school officials “that their programs will be under careful scrutiny in the coming years and that any sportsmanship infractions, even minor instances, will lead to sanctions against the Franklin football program and potentially the entire athletic program.”

School Board Chairman Ray Yonaitis would say little about the matter Tuesday.

“There was no termination. Coaches are hired for the season.

The board took action to protect athletics and stands by its decision to hire a different coach,” Yonaitis said.

But members of the friends group, made up of parents and supporters of the Golden Tornadoes football program, are angry that officials at the NHIAA and school board members refused to watch a video from the end of the game that shows a member of the Franklin team allegedly taunting a Mascoma coach.

The video shows the Mascoma coach then parting his players from the congratulation line between the two teams at the end of the game — which Franklin won, 42-22 — apparently telling them not to shake hands with Franklin players.

The player can be heard saying “Who’s laughing now?” while tugging the shirt of the opposing coach. The player was making reference to a headline in a newspaper when the two teams played each other early in the season that used that phrase after Mascoma won the first game. It’s unclear if the player said anything else, though in the complaint to the NHIAA, the Mascoma coach claimed a Franklin player “repeated a chant to (the coach’s) face, saying “you (expletive) idiot.”

In the NHIAA report, Husband was criticized personally. The Mascoma coach is adamant that Franklin players used profanity, the NHIAA said, and the situation amounted to a “he said/she said” argument, but “although the Franklin coach spent considerable time denying the charges, he did not appear to accept any responsibility for what was clearly inappropriate behavior; profanity aside.”

Husband did not return phone calls Tuesday. But Chad Carey, the father of a Golden Tornado player and a member of the friends group, said the video clearly shows that there was nothing beyond good-natured, after-game activities between teams.

“It’s a witch hunt,” he said. “This was one comment made by one player, the coach has admitted to it and the student has been punished. This coach, who is a hero to a lot of us, didn’t have anything to do with that. And we have video that shows what happened, and they won’t look at it.”

Mayor Ken Merrifield said he was surprised by the decision.