No evidence to support malicious misbehavior by players; Pittsburg parents want Deer Valley coaches fired, football program canceled; complaint states band violated Code of Ethics; Deer Valley side couldn’t hear National Anthem, at first
By Allen Payton
Last Friday night’s Deer Valley versus Pittsburg High School (PHS) football game has many people talking and debating. But the game is not the subject of discussion; it’s the pregame performance of the Pittsburg High band at the same time the Deer Valley football team was on the field, warming up. The incident has gone viral and has made Bay Area and even national news.
Several videos from that night, from the Pittsburg side of the field, were posted on Facebook and collectively gained over 100,000 views. They show footage of the band marching onto the field, while the football team continued to practice and warm up, following instructions from the coaches to do so, causing an intermingling of the two groups of students. Another video shows the team continuing to practice, while the band performed the National Anthem, while facing the Pittsburg side of the stadium, angering many who viewed it. But, with little details attached to the videos, the result was a large amount of speculation, assumptions and allegations.
Many parents and others, who commented on Facebook, are angry and have made allegations of the football players being disrespectful and unpatriotic, and even abusive to band members During a public meeting in PHS’s theater Tuesday night, parents claimed that numerous band members were assaulted via being shoving, kicking and spitting by Deer Valley High School (DVHS) coaches and players alike.
No Conclusive Evidence of Malicious Behavior
However, after hours of analyzing videos, Pittsburg Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Janet Schultz and PHS Principal Todd Whitmire said there was no conclusive evidence of malicious physical behavior coming from Deer Valley. Band Director Jenny Martinez and PHS Athletic Director Marcus Blacksher were on the field during the incident, and said they did not witness any vicious assaults, but stated that non-aggressive bumping and shoving did occur. Martinez added that two of her wind instrument players had bloody lips as a result, but no one was seen for medical attention or hospitalized. Whitmire also said that, following the game, a band member talked to police about being assaulted, which was referred to as groping, according to one parent of a band member, in a comment on Facebook. Police questioned the girl and a Deer Valley coach, but did not move forward with the case due to being too much “he said, she said,” according to Whitmire.
Approximately one hundred people were in attendance at Tuesday evening’s meeting, and the wide majority of parents were in favor and adamant about getting Deer Valley head coach Robert Hubbard, who is also a special education teacher, and his staff fired. Many also wanted DVHS to cancel its football program indefinitely.
Complaint States Band Violated Rule for Interfering with Team’s Practice
In Deer Valley’s defense, Principal Kenneth Gardner said the team had the right to be on the field. According to California Interscholastic Federation Sports and General Handbook Section 305H, subsection F, entertainment performers are not allowed to enter the field until players and coaches have completely exited to the sideline. Section 305H Code of Ethics for Bands and Other Support Groups reads: “Bands, song girls, entertainment, etc., should never interfere with officials, practicing teams, or the playing of the game.”
Gardner also said the team was not given the proper amount of time to warm up, which is a minimum of 30 minutes.
Deer Valley started warming up on Pittsburg’s practice field, adjacent to the stadium until, according to Gardner, the team was asked by the band to move. The team went back to the locker room until an “unidentified Pittsburg staff member,” told the coach to “go practice on the field from the 30-yard-line to the end zone.” The players and coaches then transitioned to the main field. However, the team practiced from the 50-yard line.
“So that’s on us,” Gardner stated. “But the Pittsburg High band stretched all the way to the 15-yard line.”
The team proceeded to run its pregame routine inside the stadium for about five minutes before the band entered, according to Deer Valley’s assistant coach Lionel Barnes, who was the acting head coach at practice Monday. He was unable to comment on why Head Coach Robert Hubbard was absent and when or if he will return.
“When the band entered the field, they did so at a rapid click,” Gardner said. “They didn’t run. I don’t know if it was double time. But, it was pretty fast.”
“The Deer Valley coach (Hubbard) was protesting to anyone who would listen,” he added.
Pittsburg’s football team was not present during the band’s performance, as they were in their locker room. That led to more confusion for Deer Valley as to why the game was starting with its opponents outside the stadium.
Deer Valley Side Couldn’t Hear National Anthem, At First
Deer Valley’s ending sequence is to have the punter kick the ball toward the end zone, and then the team runs to him and they walk off the field, Gardner explained. That’s what they were doing while the Pittsburg band lined up in a semi-circle, facing the Pittsburg side and performed the National Anthem.
“I couldn’t hear the National Anthem because of the direction of the band and due to the cacophony of noise,” he stated. “I was standing on the sidelines around the 40- or 50-yard line and with all the booing from the Pittsburg stands, I didn’t recognize the National Anthem, at first.”
“As soon as I did, I turned and stood at attention,” Gardner continued. “The players had their helmets on. They couldn’t hear it, either.”
“We investigated it by speaking to our parents, players and coaching staff on Monday,” he said. “None of them realized the National Anthem was being played. Pittsburg’s team was in the locker room when the band entered the field. I can’t say it was premature, but it was in violation of the rules.”
Joint Investigation: Series of Delays, Miscommunication
Antioch and Pittsburg Unified School Districts began a joint investigation Saturday morning, and issued a joint press release Monday night stating the situation was caused confusion due to miscommunication.
The JV game ran 30 minutes over; medical emergency staff were on the field attending to a Deer Valley player injured late in that game; band members were honored before the game for Senior Night; there was also a surprise tribute to Pittsburg football coach Victor Galli, who broke a 72-year school record for career wins the week prior. All these things created a tight and confusing pregame schedule and a delay in the start of the varsity game.
Gardner confirmed the tight schedule, but added that never once did the Pittsburg staff provide him nor Hubbard with a game plan, which should have included a list of when the sequence of events should happen, that night.
“They knew I was there and had been since 5:00 p.m.,” he said. “Pittsburg administration and staff failed to communicate with a visiting team except to say the game might start late, and denied us the ability to warm up.”
However, one of the officials offered Coach Hubbard an additional 15 minutes so they could finish warming up, which he declined, saying “No, let’s get it started,” according to Gardner.
“Looking at the situation, why aggravate it more?” he asked.
“To be fair, there’s a new Pittsburg AD (Athletic Director) and a new Deer Valley varsity coach and staff,” Gardner continued. “But the AD should have known better.”
Speaking of the Deer Valley football players, Gardner said “There might have been contact when the band entered the field. It’s regrettable. I apologize for that failure. But, at no time did they intend to harm anyone or disrespect the playing of our National Anthem. Had they done that I would have held them responsible, being a retired military officer, myself.”
“It is an unfortunate situation for both parties,” Galli said. “I hope no one loses their job over this.”
Schulze Issues Additional Statement, Gardner Files Complaint
Following the joint press release, Schultz issued an additional statement early Tuesday morning defending Pittsburg’s band, and blaming Deer Valley’s coaches. In response, Gardner filed a complaint that afternoon to the Bay Valley Athletic League for violation of the Code of Ethics by the band.
Asked why he was filing the complaint, Gardner responded, “to defend my students.”
“Dr. Schulze basically absolved her school and I find that reprehensible. And that is why I am filing a formal complaint…”
There is no one solely responsible for leading the award winning band of approximately 230 performers onto the field. It is a collaborative effort among Martinez, Blacksher and other PHS employees, according to Blacksher, who was hired as the athletic director in July. He said he did not know of CIF rule 305H, adding this has been a learning experience for him, and he will exercise a different way of communication between the band and the opposing team for a greater outcome.
Pre-Game Penalty Unrelated to Band Incident
“Immediately before the game, the Deer Valley team gathered at mid-field with the coach and were being taunted by the Pittsburg side with boo’s,” Gardner explained. “One or more of the Deer Valley players responded to the taunts, right next to the officials who immediately thre a flag and penalized the team 15 yards for taunting. It had nothing to do with what happened with the band, earlier.”
“You can speak with the head official to confirm that, if you’d like,” he added.
Accusations have been made that Deer Valley players and a coach spit on one or more of the Pittsburg band members. In response, Gardner stated that “Pittsburg has investigated some and we are investigating and we will hold those responsible, accountable.”
Not Band’s First Conflict
Pittsburg has a prestigious marching show band program. It competes and performs both nationally and internationally, having marched in the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and 2014 New Year’s Day Parade in London, and performs annually at Oakland Raider games.
But, Friday night’s incident wasn’t the first time the band has had a conflict with an opposing team. Martinez said a similar incident happened against Granite Bay High School five years ago.
“The Granite Bay game was pretty serious. [We had] a lot of injured musicians,” said Martinez, who was emotionally choked up and concerned for the safety of her students. “I just hope we can resolve this and go back to having a friendly rivalry.”
Perspective of DVHS Vidoegrapher, Player’s Parent
“From my standpoint we were on the field, same as usual, at the 50-yard line doing our routine,” said Dave Keleti, who is the videographer for and whose son plays on the Deer Valley varsity team. “When we came together, the band was coming out. I thought they were going to stop at the 50-yard line. But then they overpassed us.”
“I ran to one of the parents walking with the band and asked her ‘what are you doing? We’re warming up.’ She turned and said ‘Don’t you know, it’s our time. We always do this,’ and then she walked away.”
“I’m the guy in the dark shorts in the video,” he explained. “The players are going between the band members and the band members were going between the players.”
“I just came back from Afghanistan, in 2014,” Keleti shared. “I didn’t even hear the National Anthem when the band first started playing. The players were all jumping up and down. But, when I did, I started yelling at the players, ‘hey, it’s the National Anthem.’”
So, you can see on the video, the players were all walking away and getting on the sideline and they were all facing the flag, at the end.”
Good, Well-Played Game; Adults Failed
“It was a good, well-played game. Even Galli said that,” Gardner said. “There were no personal fouls against Deer Valley and they lost by a little. There was no cursing on the sidelines because Coach Hubbard doesn’t allow it of players or staff.”
“Pittsburg got a 30-yard penalty for a personal foul which was twice as long as the 15-yard team foul (against Deer Valley),” he added.
“Coach Hubbard has done a fantastic job with the team,” Gardner continued. “They are respectful, gracious, honorable and they should not be painted in any other way. The adults failed. During the game, our kids played a very clean game.”
Desire to Move Past This
Martinez, Schultz, Whitmire, Blacksher and Barnes all agreed they want to move past this controversy, let bygones be bygones, and get back to focusing on the task at hand, which is educating children.
Barnes said Deer Valley was treated unfairly by local publication East County Today, and it never attempted to get their side of the story. He, along with PHS employees, feel the comments on ECT’s Facebook page were classless and uncalled for.
“I just wish for the truth to get out before people start judging,” Barnes said. “He (Mike Burkholder of ECT) said we weren’t patriotic. I served my country for 25 years. I did four tours over in Iraq. Then to have somebody say, that during the National Anthem, that I’m not patriotic. Ask him, ‘Did he serve his country? Did he watch his buddies die? Did he get a scar?’ That’s what really got to me.”
In response, Burkholder stated, “I said it was disrespectful, not unpatriotic. I sent an email to all the coaches on Tuesday, but none of them have responded. Gardner said he couldn’t make the coaches respond. Now, I’m defending the coaches and Gardner on Facebook, today, based on some who are saying they are not patriotic.” Later, he added via a comment on Facebook, “That is not true, most of the coaching staff served in the armed forces.”
Additional information will be provided once the outcome of the league’s response to Principal Gardner’s formal complaint is provided.
Luke Johnson contributed to this report.