E.A. Sports Today

Smith answers charge

Wellborn football coach charged following incident after last week’s game; will coach this week, school system considers matter closed

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Wellborn High School football coach Jeff Smith turned himself into Anniston police Thursday evening to answer an arrest warrant stemming from an incident inside the team dressing room after last week’s game.

A complaint on a charge of harassment was made by the parents of Jaden Harris, a ninth-grade player on the team. It is alleged Smith pushed the player into a prayer/breakdown huddle after the game, which Wellborn lost to top-ranked Piedmont 47-16.

Calhoun County Schools superintendent Joe Dyar told East Alabama Sports Today he did not find any wrongdoing on Smith’s part in his investigation of the situation and considers the matter closed with no disciplinary action pending. Dyar met with all the stakeholders involved and forwarded all of the information to law enforcement authorities.

Dyar and Wellborn principal Chris Hayes, who accompanied Smith to the Justin Sollohub Justice Center Thursday, threw their “full support” toward the coach.

“I’m a student-first guy, however, all indications are coach Smith has had no wrong-doing concerning this topic,” Dyar said. “It does strongly break my heart a youngster feels he’s not been treated fairly.

“It burdens me there is a lot of unrest on this. It’s not a win-win unless we learn from it, and that’s for everybody.”

Smith was not available for comment.

Smith, an intense and demanding coach, is in his 20th season as a head football coach and his eighth season at Wellborn, his alma mater. He is 129-88 overall, 53-33 with the Panthers, and his teams have made the playoffs 10 years in a row. He also coached at Hueytown and Ohatchee.

“Full support of coach; that’s exactly what he needs at this time,” Hayes said. “You know what, 25 years of integrity and honesty. There are a whole of people who can vouch for that.”

The Panthers, 3-3 this season, play Glencoe Friday night in a must-win situation to maintain their postseason hopes and Smith is expected to be on the sidelines.

Hayes said he didn’t anticipate any fallout from last week’s incident Friday night.

“I’m just a player and he’s my coach,” one of the Panthers’ veteran players said. “I don’t have a stand point in the situation. I’m just here to play ball.”

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