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 issueThe 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. This is wrong. I know a lot of the other mothers — the ones that support coach Autry — they feel that it wasn’t his fault, but I don’t think they know all the story.” Blackshear, said his son, also a freshman, was the one who reported the incident to Holdenville Principal Chris Karch. "He went to the principal to get out of football because he didn’t want this to happen to him, and that’s when the principal pushed him a bit and he told what had happened,” Blackshear said. Blackshear said his son has been called a "narc” and a "snitch” since he reported the incident. Blackshear’s son quit the football team. Littrell’s son was going to return and play, but she said he wouldn’t after Autry was reinstated. "He doesn’t feel safe,” she said. The Hughes County district attorney’s office has received no recommendation from the Office of Juvenile Affairs as to whether to pursue criminal charges against the two players. Open-records requests for the incident report filed with the Hughes County sheriff’s office have been denied by the sheriff’s office and the district attorney.
‘We just move on’The school board met in an executive session for nearly three hours Thursday before voting in public. Board member Jon Swadley made a motion to rescind Autry’s reassignment. Terry Swayze followed with another vote to rescind before Dewayne Maylen and Jason Yarbrough voted no. Board President Jack Sherry cast the deciding vote to reinstate Autry. Holdenville Superintendent Steve Butcher was the one who reassigned Autry. "Reasonable men can disagree, and that’s what happened this morning,” Butcher said. "The board has spoken, and I’m going to follow their directive. We just move on. We just continue to do our job, the kids are going to continue to do theirs, and coach Autry’s going to continue to do his and hopefully we’re all successful at it.” Autry is the dean of students at the school. Wilkinson, the coach’s attorney, addressed about 50 people who attended the meeting while the members were in executive session. He said the same situation has happened elsewhere, citing an incident at Falls Creek this summer and pointing to the movie "Step Brothers” as an example of where players might have learned the behavior. "Sometimes we wonder why kids do things and act out,” Wilkinson said. "I don’t know that even the smartest of us know that. But it’s interesting that similar situations have happened elsewhere.” "Does that make it OK?” a woman in the back of the room asked. "It’s not OK,” Wilkinson answered. "It should not be and has not been OK, and this coach is a strong disciplinarian and this coach believes in school before football.” The woman spoke up again. "Why did that coach leave his class?” she asked. "He didn’t leave his class,” Wilkinson said. "He was right where he was supposed to be. He was guarding his class.” The woman said some in the group were there to support the principal and the superintendent, not Autry. Another woman in the audience said her child was in Autry’s class at the time of the incident and saw nothing. An Hughes County sheriff’s office official then came into the room and stopped the discussion.