Holdenville High School football coach's reinstatement stirs parental concerns

BY RYAN ABER Modified: September 25, 2009 at 4:44 am •  Published: September 25, 2009
HOLDENVILLE — Holdenville High School’s football coach was reinstated Thursday despite claims from two parents that more students have been subjected to sexually charged hazing by football players.

Gary Autry was reassigned late last week and missed Holdenville’s football game Sept. 18 at Wilburton because of an alleged hazing incident Sept. 17 on school grounds. He was reinstated by a 3-2 vote of the school board during a 7 a.m. meeting.

"That’s all I ever wanted was to coach the team,” Autry said Thursday morning. "I’m just glad to be the coach.”

Two juniors were suspended from school after the incident, one for three days and one for the remainder of the year.

Dianna Littrell said one of the junior football players held her freshman son down while the other straddled him. She said her son "is not the only victim.”

Another parent, Roger Blackshear, said he heard of similar incidents happening recently among football players.

Autry’s attorney, Bill Wilkinson, however, addressed the school board before it went into executive session and said, "This was an isolated incident. There was no pattern of any kind or history of any kind of situation like that.”

After the vote, most of the school board members left quickly while Autry met a group of Holdenville players and other supporters, giving most of them hugs.

Senior Taylor Hignite was one of the players standing in that line to hug Autry.

"I’m supporting my coach,” Hignite said. "He just wants to coach football. We know he loves us and will do anything for us.”

Coach addressed issue
The incident happened just before lunch period, right after Autry had dismissed his weightlifting class.

Investigators say a freshman player was "tea bagged” — an expression used when a man rubs his scrotum against another person’s face or mouth.

The parents and Autry both said the incident occurred just inside the entrance to the locker room from the weight room inside the Wolverines’ fieldhouse. The fieldhouse has 13 rooms, including the main weightlifting area, several offices, locker rooms, showers and rest rooms.

Hignite said the team found out about Autry’s reassignment Sept. 18 as they were getting on the bus to head to Wilburton. The Wolverines won that game 27-12 with assistant Thomas David coaching the team.

"They did an excellent job,” Autry said, referring to both the coaching staff and the players. "It’s an unfortunate thing to happen, but I cooperated fully, and I didn’t do anything wrong. I hated that it ever happened and feel bad for all the kids involved.”

Autry led the Wolverines in a practice of a little more than an hour Thursday afternoon as they went through their final tune-up before playing tonight at Morris.

He addressed the issue with his team.

"I told the team to focus on what they were doing,” Autry said. "I wouldn’t want to have any other incident. Very few of our team saw the incident, but I told them if they saw something happen like this, I want them to stop it. I don’t care if they think they’re going to get punched. I want them to stop it.”

Littrell wasn’t happy Autry was reinstated.

"I’m frustrated,” Littrell said. "There’s got to be some changes made. There has to be. View previous coverage on Gary Autry