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Forest Grove coach's future uncertain

FOOTBALL: Superintendent, coach admit a 'misunderstanding' is at the heart of contract dispute

A week has passed since Mike McCabe's future as the varsity football coach at Forest Grove High School came into question publicly, but there are still no definitive answers.

School district administrators have since stated that they have offered McCabe another one-year contract, which they said is all the district offers any coach at one time. But they have refused to say whether they would extend McCabe's coaching contract beyond the 2007 season.

'We're not willing to make a commitment (beyond 2007),' district Superintendent Jack Musser said in an interview Monday, a position which he reiterated at a school board meeting that night. 'We make a one-year commitment.'

For McCabe's part, all options are on the table. He has said he'd like to retire from teaching after next year but have the option of coaching for another one to two years.

But on Tuesday he said he may not coach even next year, calling it 'a possibility.' He said he is considering teaching and coaching just one more year. He said he is also thinking of teaching beyond next year if it means retaining the coaching position.

'I'm kind of holding out a day or two to see what takes place,' he said.

What is clear is the public outcry supporting the coach. Students have petitioned, written letters, and spoken out at a school board meeting (see main story).

But much of the outcry seems to have stemmed from a misunderstanding, a point that both McCabe and Musser agreed on in separate interviews.

The misunderstanding was this: McCabe had spoken casually of retiring at the end of next year, but without being clear from which position and never in an official manner, according to McCabe. The administration, however, believed McCabe intended to retire from coaching at the same time he retired from teaching, according to McCabe and Musser.

The misunderstanding seems to have been discovered on Feb. 8, when, McCabe said, he was told by Athletic Director Doug Thompson that he would not be coaching beyond next year.

Thompson declined to comment for this story, citing 'personnel' issues.

McCabe said he didn't think the administration had 'evil' intentions, but wished that he had been included in any conversations regarding his future.

'It was just mishandled,' he said.

Musser said he hadn't had any conversations with the specific intention of pushing McCabe out of the coaching position. But he said he talked with staff in hypothetical terms, as in: If McCabe retires, then what do we do?

Musser did say it would serve the school's interests to replace the coaching position at the same time as the teaching position. A coaching position alone wouldn't pay enough to lure a quality candidate, making the additional teaching position a powerful recruiting tool. Also, that would guarantee that the coach is also available to students during the school day.

'We believe it is in the best interest of the students and the school to have a coach who's also a teacher,' he said. But, he added, 'That's not to say a person couldn't do a good job if they weren't teaching at the school.'