Crockett players' boycott could affect big game against Tennessee High on Friday
Since his hiring in January, Coach Gerald Sensabaugh pledged to change the culture of Crockett, a school with very little football tradition. The Pioneers are off to a record start.
But two weeks ago, Sensabaugh expressed his frustration with the administration through several posts on social media. Then school leaders revealed the coach has been under investigation for misconduct.
On Tuesday, Sensabaugh was sidelined, put on indefinite administrative leave.
"It's a bunch of fabricated truths," the coach said. "When they have an agenda, it turns into something else."
Coach Sensabaugh also claimed the athletic director Josh Kite came to work high on drugs and offered him pills. Halliburton said they take those allegations very seriously. Kite has also been placed on administrative leave, pending investigation.
But Halliburton is concerned about the timing of the allegations.
"If these very serious safety matters were of concern, he did not bring them forward until his own misconduct was being addressed," she said.
Now many parents and people in the David Crockett community are wondering what's going to happen at this Friday's game. Right now, the Pioneers are having the best season in school history. They're undefeated in their district. And they're set to take on district rival, Tennessee High, on Friday.
But now, dozens of players are saying they will not practice or play until Coach Sensabaugh is back on the sidelines.
Many of the players skipped practice on Tuesday to support the coach. But Halliburton said an interim head coach has been appointed. Offensive coordinator Brandon Qualls will fill that role for now.
Undefeated in their conference, the Pioneers have a lot on the line this week. But now the question becomes will they even play in the biggest game of the season.
"He fights for us, we fight for him," player Manny Gammon said.
"It's really important," player Mark Seidler said. "But we're here with coach so that's what's important right now. It's crazy on the county's part to let go of someone who is so into making change for the community."
But what's even crazier to Halliburton is to throw away a winning season.
"If it's truly about students, we encourage them to continue to practice and continue to play until these investigations are complete," she said.
And she's concerned Sensabaugh is holding the team back.
"His actions don't appear to have their best interest at heart," she said.
Coach Sensabaugh argued that helping his students and seeing change are his priorities.
"I really love these kids and I'm sacrificing things from my personal life to be apart of this," he said. "And I'm willing to fight til the end, if they want me to."
The coach said he is not forcing any players to sit out.
"If they choose to go to practice, that's cool. I'll support that," the coach said. "If they choose not to go to practice, I'll support that as well."
Even if some players boycott, Sensabaugh expects the game to be played because it brings in so much revenue. The coach said home games generate around $15,000 for the school through ticket sales and concessions.
"If you don't play a game, you're threatening all of the athletic department as far as all the programs because football funds a lot of it," he said.
But so far, players News 5 talked to said that doesn't matter. And they'll forfeit a potential win to stand by their coach.
"He makes me a better student and athlete," Gammon said.
"He's molding us to be better men first," Seidler said. "Football comes last."
News 5 also checked with the TSSAA. A spokesperson said there would be no penalty, if a team did not play a regular season game. It would just count as a forfeit.