Questions surround the dismissal of Dixie State head coach Shay McClure

Dixie State University, once a doormat for Division II football on the west coast, had turned things around under the new direction of head coach Shay McClure. The 7-4 finish in 2018 was the best in the program D2 history. DSU went 5-0 at home and defeated the No. 6 team in the country just two weeks ago.

Apparently, things in Dixie weren’t going as smoothly as they seemed. DSU Athletic Director Jason Boothe announced Monday that McClure would be relieved of his duties effective immediately. 

“After a thorough review of all facets of the football program including academic performance, student-athlete welfare, and on-field results, I have decided that it is in the best interest of the program to not renew Coach McClure’s contract,” Boothe said. “I am very proud of how the team performed on the field this year; however, I am responsible for ensuring that all facets of all programs are meeting the expectations set forth since the conclusion of last season,” Dr. Boothe added. “This was a difficult decision, and I thank Coach McClure for his service to Dixie State University. I will quickly begin the search for our next head coach to ensure continuity and continued momentum for the team.”

The vague reasoning behind the firing of a seemingly successful coaching staff leads one to believe that there’s more to the story. So, I dig. 

In the time leading up to the firing, a rift had been growing between DSU administration and Trailblazer coaching staff. Coaches didn’t feel that they were given adequate support from university resources and, apparently, administration had concerns about how the football program was handling certain NCAA protocols, mainly pertaining to academics and players returning from injury. 

According to the reports, McClure had urged training staff into clearing a player from concussion protocol ahead of the team’s final stretch of the season. If true, this wouldn’t leave DSU administration with a wealth of options.

McClure vehemently denies the claims: “Concussion protocol is run by the athletic training staff. They dictate to us when they are cleared for full-contact. We have absolutely no say.” 

DSU Athletics declined to comment further on the speculation and won’t release any related statements until a new head coach is hired. Boothe says that process begins immediately. 

 A former member of McClure’s coaching staff, who wishes to remain unnamed, spoke out against the decision:  

“I don’t think we were put in a fair situation. The trainers were often unavailable and the players couldn’t get treatment when they needed it. If equipment breaks, we’d have to fix it. We have to do the laundry. We didn’t have the support that a program looking to go D1 should have. As a coach, I don’t feel that we were put in a position to succeed. We did it anyway.” 

The response from the respective sides is polar-opposite. DSU administration is conducting business as usual. Coaches and players are left stunned, surprised and curious. 

Despite the short-term success, a program at odds with its overseeing body can’t see long-term prosperity. Indications are that the divorce was in the works for a while. The relationships between the administration and certain program staff just weren’t sustainable. 

We may not get the details surrounding the rift and questions about the dismissal, at least for now, seem to be unanswered. 

One thing, however, is for certain: The Trailblazers will now have to start over with the rebuild process that Shay McClure jump-started. No matter how you stack it, it’s not an ideal spot for a program intent on making the jump from Division II football.

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