After a coaching career that spanned more than 20 years in Dexter, varsity basketball coach Randy Swoverland quit his coaching job on Monday, Oct. 28. He officially announced he was stepping down after a week of isolating himself from interactions with his students and players.
Swoverland declined to be interviewed about his resignation or the incident, but the following account was confirmed by multiple sources who were present at various times throughout the situation.
THE INITIAL INCIDENT:
Senior captain Derek Seidl had just finished stretching. Two days previously, he had gone home exhausted after a tough workout. Now, he knew that he was about to be doing heavy lifting. Then Swoverland told the team that they part of their workout that day would be running sprints.
But Seidl told Swoverland that sprints were a bad idea because the team had open gym that night.
“We finished up we were doing, then he came over and yelled at me,” Seidl said. “I deserved to be yelled at, though, for speaking out like that in front of everyone. He wasn’t happy about what I said. I thought it would be over after that day.”
Seidl and Swoverland have known each other for years. But in the days following the incident between the two, Seidl said Swoverland stopped talking to him both during basketball and during school, where Swoverland teaches Seidl’s gym class.
“I was more confused and unsure than anything,” Seidl said. “I didn’t really know what was going on. I could tell that something was wrong and assumed it had something to do with the incident. I didn’t think it was going to escalate like that.”
So Seidl went to his dad, Matt Seidl, Swoverland’s friend and former assistant coach. Matt texted Swoverland to set up a meeting to talk about what was going on. But according to Matt, Swoverland didn’t answer the text in 24 hours, so Matt went to the next level.
“I went to Bavineau and Moran, just moving up the chain of command,” Matt said. “I didn’t ask for him to be fired, I didn’t ask for him to resign, I just wanted to bring attention to what I thought was not the right way to be treating kids.”
After the meeting, Derek said that his interactions with Swoverland beginning to return to normal. Then, all of a sudden, Swoverland called a team meeting, where he promptly told the team he was quitting, then left.
Swoverland mentioned the incident between he and Derek, and said that due to the circumstances, he was no longer able to coach the team.
“I think it was something that built up and this was just the last straw,” Matt said. “He was looking for a reason. I wish he would have took ownership of that instead of implying that it was one person or one thing, but so be it. Under stress people do weird things.”
Swoverland talked to Derek one-on-one the next day.
“Essentially, he felt like the team wasn’t buying in to what he was doing,” Derek said. “He thought that the incident between him and I was a sign that he was losing the team. The incident was the tipping point, because he didn’t know how the team was supposed to buy in if the captain wasn’t.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:
With no coach, going into the final two weeks before tryouts, the boys basketball team was facing a serious problem.
“I think it’s difficult to lose a coach, especially so soon before a season,” Athletic Director Mike Bavineau said. “I feel confident that we’ll be able to put a qualified coach in place to be able to help the boys basketball program. You obviously want to keep some continuity, something that the boys are comfortable with.”
Any time a coach quits or resigns, the Athletic Department is required to post the position first to members of the Dexter Education Association, the teachers’ union. In this case, the request was submitted on a shortened deadline because of how soon the season is approaching.
“We weren’t really looking for an interview process,” Bavineau said. “After posting internally to see if any DEA members were interested in the job, we decided that (former JV coach) Tim Fortescue would be able to fill the role.”
Fortescue was offered the job as interim varsity coach Oct. 29, after Bavineau met with him to talk about planning for the season. Bavineau said he wanted to keep Fortescue informed as the situation developed.
“Based on what I saw last year, Fortescue is very good at managing team chemistry,” Bavineau said. “He knows what each player’s skills and strengths are, and he uses them to their full potential. He’s good at defining roles on the team.”
Fortescue said his goal is for his players to work hard and enjoy doing it.
“As a coach, I try to bring a lot of positive energy to my players each day,” he said. “I want the team to work hard, set goals, and enjoy the experience of high school basketball.”
And Derek, though initially surprised by Swoverland resigning, is hopeful about the coming season.
“I completely respect Swoverland’s decision and am not mad at him at all for it,” Derek said, “but I’m excited for the upcoming season with Fortescue taking over. It’ll be new and different. It’ll be challenging, but in the end I think it will be fun and we can have a successful season.”