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Chico athletic director Sanders placed on administrative leave pending investigation

By Reece Waddell | Published Thursday, March 28, 2019.
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UPDATED 2:16 p.m.

After nearly two hours in closed session Wednesday night, Chico ISD trustees took no action on the resignation of athletic director and head football coach Clayton Sanders.

Clayton Sanders

Chico Superintendent Don Elsom declined to immediately comment on the situation after the meeting. In a statement issued Thursday morning, Elsom said Sanders and defensive coordinator Matthew Sawyer have been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation into alleged inappropriate actions.

Both Sanders and Sawyer have tendered their resignations to the district.

“I want to emphatically deny anything like that,” Sanders said in a phone interview Monday regarding his resignation. “The way I look at it is there’s no criminal charges. There’s no proof. There’s only hearsay and there’s only rumors. There’s no factual proof of anything that I’ve done wrong or that my staff has done wrong.

If any of it was true we would be in handcuffs, and if any of it was true there would be proof of that. There would be repercussions. None of that is true. You’re going to hear a lot of rumors and hearsay. The proof is in the pudding. I’m still a free man and my staff is still free, from what I understand. It’s unfortunate.”

Trustee Brian Hand said a complaint was lodged by a coach against Sanders and Sawyer regarding their coaching tactics. He added the board was not made aware of Sanders’ resignation until Wednesday night’s meeting.

“This resignation was brought on by many, many things that were allowed to transpire against myself, my staff, and the athletic program,” Sanders said in a resignation letter Thursday afternoon. “Although I personally documented these inequities, I guarded any potential distraction the best I could from both the student-athletes and coaching staff, and took them on my shoulders to bear. Unfortunately, it has gotten to the point where this burden has led me to make the decision to resign.”

Sanders said in his resignation letter that, “there will always be cynics and gossip spread far and wide, especially in a small town, but the quality of people will always rely on the facts, not hearsay.”

Sanders went on to say that, “the facts are that we coach very hard, but fair, and with love. The facts are that there was an unwavering high expectation to rise to and meet, and both coach and student-athletes were held to that high standard consistently. The truth is that my family and I gave everything we could possibly give to both the student-athlete’s and the community. The truth is we changed selfish boys into unselfish men, and for that, I am the proudest.”

Sanders has been with the district since 2017. He first served as an assistant before being hired to replace Lane Wilson last March.

“First of all, I want to thank Coach Sanders for his hard work in starting out a community goal of a new and better Chico,” Hand said in a statement. “This was the brain work of the entire community as we wanted to raise the expectation for our youth and our town. Clay Sanders’ contribution to that cannot be understated!”

In Sanders’ first and only season as head coach, Chico went 5-6 and advanced to the bi-district round of the playoffs before falling to Hawley.

“As we move forward for a brighter future for Chico, we will always be thankful for the push start we received in [Sanders’] short tenure at Chico,” Hand said.

Elsom said Chico High School principal, Randy Brawner, will serve as the acting athletic director for the high school until a new athletic director is hired. Monte Sewell, the middle school principal, will serve as the acting athletic director for the middle school.

Elsom said the district will begin a search for its third athletic director and head football coach in as many years soon.

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