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Embattled New Canaan Football Coaches Resign

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Three New Canaan Youth Football League coaches have resigned in the wake of charges that they supervised the burning of third-place trophies and practiced in unsafe conditions. The allegations against the Black team coaches came in an anonymous letter from the parent of an eighth-grade player.

The coaches, Rod Fox, David Jahns and Jay Pirrone, resigned from the New Canaan football executive board. They also sent a letter to the players and parents apologizing for the burning of the trophies. The Fairfield County Football League and the new executive committee of New Canaan Youth Football are conducting independent investigations into the behavior of the coaches. The New Canaan police department also investigated without filing charges.

New Canaan Black was one of the most successful teams in the Fairfield County Football League entering this season. It finished 9-0 in 2010, and shared the league championship with New Canaan Red. This season the team went 7-2-1 and lost in the semifinals of the league playoffs.

On Nov. 19, the coaches took several players to Irwin Park after a team party to burn trophies they received for finishing third. “Our point was to flush away the disappointment of the team’s last game and move on and not dwell on it any further,’’ Fox said in an email. “It was bad judgment. We apologized to the players and parents and made sure that the message was clear for everyone. This was an exceptional group of kids who were very successful. It is unfortunate that this event has clouded the great accomplishments of these young men.”

The coaches also apologized in a letter to the parents and players that went out over the weekend. "In football, there is a tradition of 'burning the shoe' as a means of forgetting any disappointment in the season and instead focusing on the positive and looking forward to next season,’’ the letter said. “Unfortunately, we as coaches made a mistake in our attempt to carry out this tradition. While our message was intended to be positive, it was a mistake to carry it out in this way and for that we would like to apologize. This lack of judgment on our part should in no way tarnish all of the hard work, sportsmanship and success that you accomplished this season and in previous seasons.”

The anonymous letter was sent to The Daily New Canaan on Monday. A copy of the email sent to the team was also forwarded to The Daily New Canaan.

The anonymous letter also said the coaches made the players practice in unsafe conditions, including lightning storms. In addition, the letter said coaches flouted practice restrictions imposed by the league. Players were required to attend mandatory pizza parties and practice lasted longer than the league maximum of 10 hours per week. The coaches deny those allegations.

Fox served as league president, while Jahns was the treasurer and Pirrone one of two coaching directors. Ted Dumbauld, the new league president, is also the president of the Fairfield County Football League.

“We’ve tried to build a league that is based on safety,’’ said Westport’s Carm Roda, a member of the Fairfield County Football League board. “We’ll take action to make sure procedures are followed. What we have to find out if it’s one team, or if other teams are doing it, too. There are no shortcuts to the safety of the kids. If these allegations are true, that behavior has no place in our league.”

Roda said he expects a report from the New Canaan board next week. The league will dispense punishment, if appropriate, after both investigations are complete.

He also said the league is also talking with parents of the New Canaan players. “We want to preserve what we started 11 years ago,’’ Roda said. “This is not a league about winning. This is a league about development and safety and sportsmanship. People have to understand that there are consequences for their actions.”

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