July 23, 2024
Freedom principal says an incident Friday “required my action.” Former coach Kevin Hartwig to help lead Oakley school for remainder of the season.

OAKLEY – Freedom High football coach Zachary Sims spoke out on Tuesday, one day after being placed on administrative leave for the remainder of the season because of an incident that unfolded after a game last Friday.

“Both the decision and its timing is very concerning and surprising,” Sims wrote in a statement to the Bay Area News Group. “The decision demonstrates a clear lack of judgment and understanding, as it came just a day after I had reached out to Principal Steve Amaro regarding safety concerns on campus, the latest in a series of serious safety incidents that have happened at Freedom in the past 12 months.”

In a follow-up response to this news organization, Sims said the latest incident happened after Freedom lost at home to rival Liberty 41-0 on Friday night.

“I was approached personally by a belligerent person after the game on the field,” Sims wrote. “I made multiple attempts to deescalate the individual and felt my safety was at risk the whole time as this is not the first time this has happened, and there was nobody present to help.”

Amaro called the school’s action a personnel issue and declined in multiple interviews to get into specifics as to why Sims won’t lead the Oakley school moving forward. Sims is still a teacher at Freedom. 

“We hold accountable our students and adults for what they do over the course of being employed or being part of a school,” Amaro said in a phone interview with the Bay Area News Group. “There were a number of instances where I was concerned, and there was one particular thing that came to light on Friday that required my action.”

The news about the coach being placed on administrative leave was first reported by the Brentwood Press.

Amaro said he did not witness the incident on the field Friday, but added that he walked past Sims that night while going to the parking lot after the game. 

The principal said the coach did not raise any concerns at that time, nor had Sims spoken about other encounters at other games this season.

“He passed me with his wife in the parking lot,” Amaro said. “I was the last person to leave, and principals are usually the last person to leave because I had to wait for the last student to get picked up.”

Sims said he emailed Amaro about the incident on Sunday and contends that he did nothing wrong.

“I’ve been advised to not get too far into the details,” Sims wrote. “But I go home with my wife after games and she wasn’t feeling well so after the incident we were just trying to get home.“

The Falcons are 6-19 since Sims took over in 2021. Amaro said the decision to remove the coach had nothing to do with on-field results.

“I don’t care if our kids win a game,” Amaro said. “What I want is for them to have a memorable experience where they’re going to learn character (lessons) that will propel them into the future.”

Girls flag football coach Kevin Hartwig will share coaching duties on the tackle football team with Scott Sbranti for the rest of the season. 

Hartwig coached Freedom’s tackle football team for 16 years, stepping down in 2017. He led the Falcons to appearances in the NorCal Division I-AA and NCS Open Division title games in 2016 and the NCS Division I final a year later.

“I’m very thankful that they’re coming back to help our kids, but that had no bearing on whether or not I would have made that determination,” Amaro said. “I would have done this regardless. ”

Amaro said Sims’ job as a teacher at the school is not in jeopardy.