Calls again rang out before the Bayonne Board of Education to reinstate former High School head football coach Dwayne Williams, including from the former coach himself. At the same time, the board has hired a new head coach for the Bees, Jerome Hayes.
According to Williams, his contract was not renewed and he was not given a reason why. However, the action by the board possibly stems from the fights between the Bayonne and Barringer high school football teams during and after the Oct. 29 game.
The fighting first broke out on the field, which would have resulted in a number of players being written up and unable to play in the next game. Instead, referees called the game early for Bayonne, with eight minutes and forty seconds left on the clock, resulting in only one player from each side being written up and unable to play.
Following this, another fight broke out off of the field, resulting in the current situation.
The board voted to approved the appointment of Hayes at its January meeting. Prior to his approval, a number of people who spoke in favor of Williams before the board in December as well as the January meeting of the Bayonne City Council, again asked why Williams was fired and urged the board to reinstate him.
Board Attorney Philip Lamparello said Williams was not terminated and that the board could not speak on the matter for personnel and legal reasons.
Williams breaks his silence
Williams addressed for the first time the lack of his contract’s renewal and the subsequent hiring of Hayes at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting, stating: “First and foremost, I want you to understand one thing: this is not about Dwayne Williams, this is not about Jerome Hayes, it’s about these kids. I see the support that Jerome got, and I appreciate that, but that’s the support I never got from day one.”
Williams called Hayes “a good guy and a good coach” but asked why they didn’t hire him in the first place. Prior to coming back to Bayonne, Williams said he had offers in Iowa and Kansas City he turned down to coach here.
“My mother, my two sisters, and my nephew died. I was ready to get out of here,” Williams said. “The only thing that kept me here was the Bayonne High School football job. So my question is: why stop me and not hire Jerome Hayes from day one? And bring him back here now, back here today, to put this thing together that I put together.”
Williams said he was “walking on eggshells since day one,” and questioned where the security was at the Barringer game. He disputed the report by the Super Football Conference and called for an investigation of witnesses who were there that night.
He continued: “You can knock me down, but what you’re not going to do is defame me, take away who I am, what I’ve done all my life, because of some bulls**t. Because that’s what it was… And at the end of the day, I’m going to stand up for who I am. And you can believe that.”
Williams lamented the team he put together and the work he was planning with the Bayonne Youth Football program. However, he ended by again calling Hayes “a great guy.”
Outpouring of support continues
Elijah Ortiz, a player under Williams, again spoke in favor of his former coach, specifically the attitude he brought to the team that Bayonne had been lacking in the past. He said that Williams had put together the team in a short amount of time, with only two weeks before the season started.
“Though Dwayne was their last option, he was without a doubt in my mind, the best option,” Ortiz said. “The energy this year was a complete shift from the Bayonne team last year.”
Gerald Baker agreed and asked the board why no security personnel were terminated following the incident, adding: “These young players see football as a way out and Coach Williams as a guide. These players have met more college coaches in a few months than any of these coaches have shown them before.”
Abraham Mitchell, whose nephew and cousin played under Williams, again offered his support for the coach, asking why his contract was not renewed and criticizing the hiring of Hayes.
“He is the person for the moment,” Mitchell said. “You’re going to remove this black man, who is doing things right. If he wasn’t these kids wouldn’t have turned around and do what they did. They wouldn’t be out here fighting for him to come back.”
Pat Desmond, a resident and friend of Williams, asked why the new coach was being hired now instead of the spring, to which Board President Maria Valado said that Superintendent of Schools John Niesz had brought it before the board at this time.
“We are just here to take his recommendation,” Valado said. “We’re not the ones who decide when to bring something forward.”
Desmond called Williams’ ousting “politics at its best,” said the former coach was pushed out by the administration, stated the need for another investigation into the matter, and vowed to continue speaking out against the decision.
Lamparello reiterated that the board cannot discuss personnel or former employee outside of a closed session. He said that members of the public can give their statements, but the board doesn’t have to respond to questions.
The board voted 7-0 to approve the hiring of Hayes, with Valado abstaining from the vote.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.