Coaches, including former Titan, banned from football league - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Coaches, including former Titan, banned from youth football league

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A Channel 4 I-Team investigation found 18 coaches under a lifetime ban from a popular youth football league in Middle Tennessee.

One of the men banned is former Tennessee Titans defensive end Mike Jones, accused of using and recruiting illegal players.

Jones is also being sued after one of the alleged illegal players on the team he founded hurt a player on an opposing team.

The lifetime bans are from the Tennessee Youth Football Alliance.

The lawsuit against Jones and the coaches on his team has spotlighted the reasons why TYFA takes a hard-line stance on accusations of improper behavior.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Williamson County, stems from a 2012 AAA matchup between the Lebanon Blue Devils and the Grassland Golden Eagles.

The lawsuit claims the Lebanon team, founded by Jones, employed a "win at all costs" strategy by recruiting illegal, ineligible players.

Parents of a then 11-year-old Grassland player said he was hit by one of the Devils' alleged "illegal" players and sustained significant injuries, described in the suit as "permanent, painful, and disabling."

"Had the kid [the alleged illegal player] not been playing, then there's a good chance that the other player hadn't been injured," said H.R. Roberson, who helps oversee referees for TYFA.

TYFA felt there was enough evidence to ban all of the coaches on the Lebanon team, including Jones, from coaching in the league for life.

Because TYFA is also being sued, league president David Gamble couldn't comment on the incident, but said he is troubled by some coaches' willingness to try and cheat in games involving boys.

"They [coaches] just want to win. They want the best players," Gamble said.

Jones' attorney said it is their policy to not comment on a pending lawsuit, and Jones did not return the Channel 4 I-Team's call for comment.

In responding to the lawsuit, Jones said all allegations of wrongdoing and negligence are expressly denied.

Jones is also counter-suing, claiming he shouldn't have been sued in the first place.

In his response to the lawsuit, Jones said even though coaches are required to sign a code of conduct, TYFA failed to provide copies of the rules.

"Ignorance is no excuse, because the rules are right there on the website," Jones said.

Gamble allowed the Channel 4 I-Team to examine all of TYFA's information on the lifetime bans, as well as the suspensions and fines for nearly 30 other coaches.

In one referee's report, a coach was overheard telling his defense, "lay somebody out, get numbers 15 and 12."

The referee ejected the coach for picking out young players to hurt.

"I think at our level, you've really got to guard what you say. We're so much under the microscope, not by media, not by administrators, but under the microscope of parents. And that's the biggest microscope of all," Gamble said.

The Channel 4 I-Team also found a referee's report in which a coach threatened a referee, saying, "I'm about to beat [you], after I get you out here in the parking lot."

"Make death threats, and 'I'm gonna get you. I'll see you somewhere,'" Gamble said.

Gamble said, for the most part, the coaches in TYFA are professionals and are great examples for the kids.

But, as for bad behavior, Gamble said it's getting worse.

"In the last two to three years, I've seen it magnified, the length that people, that coaches will go to to win a trophy to that costs $67.50," Gamble said.

Gamble said his league has to be strict, because he believes the coaches have the first and possibly biggest impression on young players.

The attorney for the injured Grassland player refused to comment or allow his family to speak, but the boy's father did tell the Channel 4 I-Team that his son had to undergo several surgeries after that game.

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