February 18, 2014
A coaching ban supposedly faced longtime Fallon coach Mitch Overlie on Thursday.
Rumors ran wild about a lifetime ban, although Sharla Hales, Churchill County School District’s legal counsel, said it was not a ban. According to Hales, Overlie’s suspension is season-by-season.
Overlie, Fallon’s varsity wrestling coach since 1999, said he was notified of the decision to withhold his name from consideration to coach in the spring and beyond about 90 minutes before the Churchill County School District’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Overlie said the suspension is the result of his deposition given in the fall and subsequent settlement after litigation of a federal lawsuit brought by former assistant coach Dee Gregory, whose son was the victim of hazing in December 2010.
Dr. Sandra Sheldon, CCSD superintendent, said the decision not to hire Overlie for the spring season came from the Board of Trustees. Coaches are hired on one-season contracts and must be approved by the board.
In addition, she said, “it has nothing to do with this hazing case.”
“All I can say is he was not hired to do the assistant track coach position in the spring,” she added.
As to the justification to not hiring Overlie to remain as an assistant track coach, a position he has held for several years, Sheldon said she could not comment.
“I can’t comment on any of that,” she added. “It was a board decision.”
Sheldon, though, said Overlie can apply for coaching positions next fall and winter.
On Friday, Hales released a statement on behalf of the district stating Overlie was only suspended for the spring track season. She did not disclose why Overlie received such a suspension.
“The school district appreciates Mr. Overlie’s dedicated years of service as a coach in multiple sports,” the statement read. “He has been a positive influence in the lives of many young people, and his countless hours of service speak to his commitment to helping young people reach their goals.
“The school district confirms that Mr. Overlie is not going to be an assistant track coach this season. The reasons for that are confidential. This is not a ‘lifetime ban.’”
The CCSD Board of Trustees approves a list of coaches before each season (fall, winter and spring). Overlie, though, said he was told it is unlikely he will ever be approved again to coach.
He is the head coach for the cross-country and wrestling programs and an assistant track coach. Overlie was allowed to coach the wrestling team at last weekend’s regional tournament and at this weekend’s state tournament in Primm.
Last week the district agreed to a $712,500 settlement regarding a hazing incident in Las Vegas involving the wrestling program in 2010.
Overlie and former assistant wrestling coach Matt Reibsamen — also an assistant track coach — were suspended for half the track season in 2011 after the incident. Reibsamen, however, was not suspended last week.
The two coaches were cleared by the city attorney’s office of allegations of failure to report in 2011. The two coaches reported the hazing incident after four of the five wrestlers admitted the act two days later.
Overlie said prior to his deposition, settlement talks were in the $100,000-$150,000 range. After providing his statements, counsel for Gregory countered with the $712,500 figure, Overlie said.
“I really don’t know how to respond to it,” he added. “It’s pretty much I’m not going to coach at Churchill County High School. I asked why. There’s a recommendation for Ann Alexander, who recommended based on the fact that the lawsuit jumped from $125,000 or whatever they were willing to pay to $700,000. I guess they’re blaming that on my account. I don’t know. I guess I said something wrong or I’ve done something wrong.”
Alexander, the attorney representing CCSD in the lawsuit, said she did not recommend a suspension. She said it was a district decision.
Cal Dunlap, Gregory’s attorney, declined to comment regarding Overlie’s statement.
The lawsuit named CCSD, five former wrestlers and three of their parents. Two of the former wrestlers, though, were dropped from the case.
Nevertheless, Overlie said he answered every question during the six hours.
“I was told I wasn’t on trial,” he said. “By the end of the deposition, I felt like I was on trial. I should have brought my own lawyer.”
Many questions covered incidents prior to the 2010 hazing, and Overlie said he described in as much detail as he could about those events.
He said those incidents were not discovered until weeks, months and even years later, in which he did not know if he should report because so much time had lapsed. In addition, Overlie said he was grilled about the atmosphere surrounding the program, which he said he treated his wrestlers as a family.
“The thing that is blindsiding to me is they asked every account of everything that’s ever happened at Churchill County and then I feel like I’m punished for telling the truth,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that happen at any school, I think, that taken in right spirit or taken in the wrong spirit is the difference of how you want to be a victim or not. What happened to Justin (Gregory) was terrible. It wasn’t right.
“When I painted a picture of everything that I knew, I guess I’m being punished for telling the truth or I’m a liability because there’s things that I should have done in the past … I was trying to piece everything that I could. I didn’t want to hold anything back. I don’t know what I’m suppose to learn from this.”
Thomas Ranson contributed to this report.