BY JIM MISUNAS
ELLINWOOD — Two-a-day is typically how many Kansas high school football practices start.
That’s how long Ellinwood football coach Jason Duvall lasted — two days.
Duvall said his dismissal had nothing to do with coaching football or on-field activities related to the sport.
The Ellinwood school board voted to dismiss Duvall after Tuesday’s practice based on a recommendation by Superintendent Ben Jacobs. Duvall said he was dismissed for “not following protocol,” regarding ordering school-related apparel without proper authorization.
“I am no longer the head football coach or the high school coach here in Ellinwood as of today,” Duvall wrote in Tuesday’s email. “A district decision (Ben Jacobs and the school board) was made to fire me for not following a protocol.”
Duvall was questioned Monday and Tuesday about a May 19th order of six Ellinwood “Go Eagles” 18-inch window decals, which Duvall paid for. He intended to show the decals to Ellinwood school officials for possible approval as a fundraising venture. But a receipt of the $58 bill was also sent to a school district address, which was a mistake by the company.
“I had the bill sent to my home. They said, ‘We have a bill right here.’ That was that company’s fault,” said Duvall, who preserved email messages and a recording of the conversation to verify his story. “I was trying to do things through the proper channels.”
Duvall was given a choice to resign, but chose to not take that option. He described the dismissal decision as “excessive in my opinion.”
“It’s a hard lesson for me to grasp. I didn’t follow that particular order,” Duvall said. “I didn’t do what the school asked. I ordered stuff without permission.”
Another company error sent 30 travel bags to a high school address when Duvall had requested one bag — again to show to Ellinwood school officials for approval. Duvall had previously ordered extra softball pants in 2015 without school approval when more players than expected tried out.
“I picked up the phone and made a call, but that the improper way to do that,” he said. “I messed up in ordering. It was not the correct way.”
Duvall has been relieved of his coaching duties in football and girls softball. He is still employed as Ellinwood’s physical education teacher and weightlifting instructor.
A more recent issue surfaced regarding Ellinwood Eagle discount cards, which apparently were not verified on a business-by-business basis for 2017. The Ellinwood school district is offering refunds for Eagle discount cards.
“I did not fill out a piece of paper and have my administration sign that,” Duvall said. “I am wrong on that.”
Ellinwood’s football team finished 3-6 and 6-3 the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years. The Eagles (2-3 district) barely missed the playoffs last year, losing a pair of 2-point decisions to St. John (22-20) and Goessel (50-48).
“I was blessed to coach a great group of players my first year,” he said. “They put in hard work and earned a winning season.”
After graduating 12 seniors, the Eagles gained momentum as the 2016 season progressed. Late-game strategy backfired against St. John and a missed officiating call cost the Eagles against Goessel.
“We had a chance to make the playoffs after making a lot of personnel changes,” Duvall said. “We got away from our game plan against St. John and that cost us. We rebounded pretty well to give ourselves a second chance against Goessel, but we had a missed call.”
Duvall transformed the Ellinwood softball team into a state contender with two regional titles and a runner-up regional finish and back-to-back Class 2A state runner-up finishes.
The Eagles beat Moundridge 1-0 and Pittsburg Colgan 5-2 before losing to Chase County 10-0 in the 2017 2A state championship game. Ellinwood defeated Republic County 3-0 and Udall 11-10 before losing 11-2 to Valley Falls in the 2016 2A state championship game.
“The girls learned to fight through tough games and saw what it took to be successful at the highest level,” Duvall said. “Our goal was to play better than the year before. The girls learned to handle situations on the field that will help them deal with other situations later in their lives.”
Duvall started in the offensive line for Texas Tech University’s football team and worked as a teacher in Texas before moving to Kansas.