Speaking for the first time since being suspended last month, former Garinger football coach Terry Liggin said he was not going to try to get his job back and will seek to continue his career at a new school.
Liggin, 30, was indefinitely suspended a few days before the start of the season while Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was doing an investigation. Assistant coach Lin Fisher took over the team and has led Garinger to a 1-2 record heading into today's game at Hough High (2-0).
Liggin said he was ultimately suspended a full year because he allowed a player to participate in a scrimmage before the player completed nine full days of practice, per state association rules. Liggin said he returned to campus as a teacher this week. Efforts to reach Garinger officials were unsuccessful.
Liggin said the player had an issue with medical records and was pulled from practice. The player was cleared, Liggin said, a few days before a planned scrimmage with another team.
"The player participated in that," Liggin said, "and I was notified by the trainer that he didn't have enough days and we pulled him. After the scrimmage, (Garinger athletics director Claire Gardin) informed me that it was a violation. From that, I received a suspension letter from school and they suspended me for 365 days from coaching football."
N.C. High School Athletic Association deputy commissioner Que Tucker said it was a CMS decision to suspend for 365 days. She said typically the association asks schools to file reports on these types of incidents and to let the NCHSAA know what their plans for punishment are.
If the NCHSAA feels the penalty is severe enough, Tucker said, it will usually stand by the local decision. In some cases, however, it might levy its own penalties. In this case, Tucker said, the association decided the CMS penalty was severe enough. The NCHSAA handbook calls for a $500 fine and a one-year probation for violation of the preseason conditioning rule. A second violation would bring another $500 fine plus a 365-day suspension.
Liggin was Garinger's 15th coach since 1975. He coached Garinger to a 2-9 record last season, when the Wildcats lost two games by a total of nine points and were close in two more. Those were significant upgrades for a program that has had four losing streaks of at least 18 games since 1989, including a 61-game on-field losing streak that ended in 2008.
Liggin said he was proud of the progress he made at Garinger. He said the school started a booster club, added a junior varsity football team and that the varsity team GPA jumped from 2.1 to 2.6 in the second semester of the 2009-10 school year. "We established an academic tutoring program, and Lin Fisher headed that up," Liggin said. "Even though I wasn't able to see the deal finished, I think they're headed in the right direction."
Liggin said he did not want to return as coach next season.
"There's no bad taste," he said. "It's just time to move on. Coach Fisher will lead them on to better things if he gets it full time. With me being out a year, it's time to explore some different options and spend time with my family. Hopefully somebody will give me another opportunity to coach."
CMS has removed two student-athletes this fall: two cheerleaders at Butler for residency violations. One was a junior varsity and one was a varsity member. They will both sit out for 365 days.