NICOLAUS (CBS13) -– Did a high school football coach mistreat one of his players or was the coach just being strict?
That’s at the heart of a claim filed against the East Nicolaus High School District last week.
The claim filed by the student’s mother alleges that on Aug. 23, head coach Mark Varnum punished one of his players, Justin Williams, so severely that the 16-year-old junior suffered from dehydration, a partially collapsed lung and a concussion.
Williams was allegedly being punished for missing practice the day before. The claim says Varnum told him that, “Today you are going to wish you were never born.”
Williams then was forced to run two miles, followed by a “kickoff drill” in which he had to try to run through 11 other players, according to the claim.
After Williams’ first time through the drill, Varnum instructed the players to “lay his ass out,” the claim alleges.
Williams is listed on the East Nicolaus roster as a 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds. He is no longer playing on the team.
Scott Miller, a senior on the East Nicolaus team, was there when the alleged incident took place. He tells CBS13’s Ben Sosenko the punishment was no different than that for any other teammate who misses practice.
“I don’t know why these allegations were made or why any of this is happening,” Miller said. “He’s a good coach, he’s a great dad, he’s a great teacher. He’s pushed us to the limits that we didn’t think we could go. He’s really made this team a successful team.”
The school is located in Sutter County, about halfway between Sacramento and Marysville. The Sutter County Sheriff’s Department told CBS13 they have conducted an investigation and didn’t find any criminal conduct by Varnum.
Still, people in town tell us that this isn’t the first complaint about the way Varnum treats his players and coaches.
“I absolutely think they work them too hard, and to me it’s supposed to be a game,” one parent said. “It’s supposed to be fun and they’re out there, they’re running them, it’s (practice) too long, and I don’t agree with it.”
The boy’s mother, Marcie Mackay, has been advised not to speak to the media, but her attorney, Noel Farris of Sacramento, tells us that Varnum held a team meeting to make sure his players all had the same story.
The claim also says the Varnum has been sexually inappropriate, sharing photographs of a female student to other members of his coaching staff, and placing his genitals on the face of a student.
Again, claims, one of players say are false.
“I’ve been here four years. Our coach has never sent any kind of pictures to anybody,” the player said.
Superintendent Matthew Roberts declined comment Monday other than to say a press release would be issued by the district. In the press release, sent to CBS13 early Tuesday afternoon, Roberts said the district is still investigating the incident but so far “indicates Mr. Williams’ allegation of being mistreated during football practice is totally unfounded.”
It goes on to say “Mr. Williams was treated as any other player who skips a football practice. … The District denies any wrongdoing by Coach Varnum and the coaching staff during the August 23 practice.”
The school board will meet on Wednesday to discuss the matter. If the district rejects the claim, Mackay can file a lawsuit.
On Friday coach Varnum’s team will be back on the field to play another game, hosting Biggs.