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Case closed on coach Williams contract controversy?

Report sheds new light on football fights

Dwayne Williams (center) attended the January meeting of the Bayonne City Council where he saw an outpouring of support, but he did not speak. Photo by Daniel Israel.

A report sheds new light on why former Bayonne head football coach Dwayne Williams did not have his contract renewed by the Bayonne Board of Education.

An attorney for Williams, James Lisa, had claimed he was not given a reason why he was let go. However, it became obvious the move came after a fight between the Bayonne High School football team and the Barringer High School football team during the fourth quarter and after the October 29, 2021 game at Don Ahern Veterans Stadium.

The Board of Education informed Williams he would not be returning as head coach in December, before facing calls for his reinstatement at the board meeting later that month. That same meeting, the board accepted the recommendations of the Super Football Conference (SFC) Controversies Ethics Sportsmanship Committee relating to the incident.

In January, more residents, including Williams himself, called for his reinstatement at both the Bayonne City Council meeting and Board of Education meeting. However, that month the board hired Jerome Hayes to lead the Bees as their new head coach instead. While there was no mention of Williams at the February meeting, there were still many questions left unanswered.

Amid the outpouring of support for Williams, many asked what exactly the SFC committee recommended, with some claiming to have obtained a copy and that it did not recommend the termination of Williams. The Bayonne Community News has since obtained a copy of the report, revealing additional information about the controversy.

SFC does not recommend termination

The recommendation was made by the committee back at its December 8, 2021 meeting. During the virtual meeting, the committee discussed the fight between Bayonne and Barringer that broke out in the middle of the fourth quarter. There was a quick review of the provided information as well as a police report taken from that evening. The committee also received a short video of a Bayonne player hitting a Barringer helmet against the floor and wall.

Due to the fight, the head coaches of both teams and game officials opted to stop the game with 8:41 remaining on the clock. The option to end the game early involved only one player from each team being suspended as opposed to a number on each side. While the coaches agreed, the players were still engaging with each other. As Barringer was headed toward their bus, the Bayonne team allegedly followed after them, continuing to taunt Barringer before heading under the bleachers to fight again.

According to David Hoffman, the administrator in charge at the game, Williams scoffed at a request to help to stop the fight.

Williams finally spoke out and addressed the Board of Education at its January meeting.

“I caught up with Coach Williams and implored him to get there, because a brawl was about to ensue,” Hoffman said in a statement. “His response to be was ‘that’s why I have 16 assistant coaches for.’ I got to the locker room area and instructed all the players and coaches to get in and stay in the home locker room, however, a lot of damage was done. Bayonne PD was already on the scene trying to retain order. Bayonne Players had Barringer helmets with them in the locker room. They kept trying to fight their way out but I also had a few security staff and police officers assisting me.”

According to Barringer Athletic Director Terrence Bogden, chants of “F*ck Barringer” rang out before the game, helmets were thrown during and after the brawl broke out, and their bus was pelted with objects by Bayonne players before they left.

“At this time is when I saw Bayonne security and other personnel, along with Barringer coaches, AD and principal, trying to get in between the two teams,” Bogden said. “Once the two teams were separated, we ushered our player onto the bus, again, no one from Bayonne security or police escorted Barringer players to the bus.”

Bogden makes no specific mention of Williams intervening. He questions where were the 11 security guards and four police officers who were present at the game. However, a report from District Coordinator of Safety and Security said some personnel were injured by Barringer trying to break up the fight: “The opposing team ran directly into them, where one of the officers received a head injury due to a helmet being thrown and striking her in the head.”

Bayonne takes responsibility

Ultimately, Bayonne Athletic Director Dr. Mike Pierson told the SFC committee that Bayonne took responsibility for the fight. According to Pierson, the team typically walks back to Bayonne High School after the game instead of the route they followed as they pursued Barringer.

“Bayonne takes responsibility for their players not walking up the hill to the HS after the game,” said Pierson.

Walking up the hill is a Bayonne tradition, which was broken when the players instead chose to engage with Barringer in another fight under the bleachers. Additionally, no conversations took place between Bayonne and Barringer about Williams being the former head coach of Barringer and any potential issues that may cause. Pierson stated that communication took place prior to the game via email between Bayonne and Barringer. He added that Bogden previously told Pierson that Williams “was a good coach with a lot of college contacts” when asked for a reference check.

Williams was named head coach in August of 2021 before his contract was not renewed in December of that same year.

According to Pierson, there were no reports made to Bayonne officials about chants towards the Barringer players. Pierson noted that his head coach and staff were wrong for their actions, and as a result the team’s season ended early and Williams had since been “terminated.” The phrasing terminated was used by Pierson in the report despite officials denying Williams was terminated and refusing to comment on the matter due to potential litigation and personnel matters only being discussed in close session.

The committee recommendations called for Bayonne to have put into effect a corrective action plan for security by March 1. Both schools were to have addressed the actions of the players who engaged in the brawl on the field. Williams and any other Bayonne coaches were to enroll and complete the NFHS Coaches Modeling Course, also by March 1. Williams was to be placed on probation for the next scholastic year, as well as the Bayonne High School Football team.

Both schools were asked to develop a “sportsmanship criterion” to present to the SFC by May 1st. And Bayonne will also bear the responsibility to pay for the costs of the football helmets that were lost and or damaged as well as develop a security plan for the safe exit of the visiting team to their buses.

While Williams and his supporters expressed dissatisfaction with the report citing the lack of testimony from Bayonne personnel who were at the game, there was ultimately no mention or recommendation to terminate or not renew the contract of Williams in the SFC report. Regardless, the board chose not to renew his contract anyway, opting to move in a new direction with a new coach.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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