Recording Exposes Coach’s Threats, Obscenities

Memphis high school football coach Shawn Abel resigned his position this week after audio of a recent 129-second obscene locker room rant by the Collierville (TN) head coach was posted on Youtube.

Memphis Colliersville High School football coach Shawn Abel rant

(Clockwork Orange meets Collierville High School)

The audio of Abel was reportedly recorded by a Collierville player before the school’s game on October 20, 2011 and quickly circulated throughout the Memphis media, apparently leading the Shelby County (TN) school system to place Abel on paid administrative leave. Abel has resigned his football position but is hoping to maintain his teaching job at the same school.

Joy Lambert of WPTY-TV Memphis reported of Abel’s resignation:

Abel isn’t making excuses, only expressing regrets and apologies. His attention now is on his family and the kids in the classroom, where he hopes to return.

“It’s hard to convince people who are not in sports that there is a major separation between what a coach does on the field and what a classroom teacher does,” he says. “I have five classrooms in the day, and when you go to the practice field you have to turn things on and off. I try to do that, I feel like, with the exception of that occasion, I felt like I do a good job.

By invoking the word “exception” in defense of his behavior, Abel would seem to indicate that such a tirade was isolated.

Not so, according to the Collierville High School football players who spoke to another Memphis TV news outlet, WMC-TV:

Monday night, Action News 5 spoke to several football players from Collierville who did not want to be identified.

“It wasn’t a pep talk and it wasn’t getting you ready for a game,” one player said. “It was a cussing, screaming psycho.”

The players said it was not Abel’s first rant this year. Abel has coached at Collierville for more than 24 years, becoming head varsity coach last year.

“He was one of my biggest role models,” one player said. “I looked up to the man probably more than any other coach that I had.”

But the players we spoke with said almost everyone on the team wanted Coach Abel to leave.

“I think I speak for the other teammates when I say he’s completely taken my passion and spirits for the game and completely driven them out,” one player said.

WMC also got reaction from Abel, which included his sniping at the same players he was heard threatening days earlier on the audio recording:

“You never know when someone’s gonna be dressed in a uniform and sneak a cell phone that you can’t see, and record what you say,” he said. “I’m kind of an old-school football guy, and I believe in the sanctity of the locker room. You know, if I reported everything in the locker room, half those kids would be in trouble everyday.”

So what exactly set Abel off in the first place? From the WMC-TV report sourced with Collierville players:

Abel’s rant started last Thursday night, when one of his players asked a friend from another school to tape his ankles before Collierville’s game with Wooddale. According to the players, several people recorded the expletive filled rant on their cell phones. One player posted it on YouTube.

Meanwhile, in a WPTY-TV website poll, over three-quarters of respondents said Abel should not have resigned his position as Collierville High School head football coach - let alone his full-time teaching job at the school.

Perhaps those poll results would’ve been different had the same respondents reacted after watching the WMC-TV report instead of WPTY’s seemingly sympathetic portrayal of Abel.

Who to believe in the aftermath of Abel’s players exposing his “coaching” tactics to the media?

Personally, I side with the MP3.

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