Knoxville Community Standing Firmly Behind Hall of Fame Coach

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KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- Legendary Knoxville High School baseball coach Joel Johnson addressed the school board Tuesday with his reputation under fire from the Knoxville Community School District.

"No man is a failure who has friends," Johnson said.

Those friends of his also stepped up to the plate. Blake McClung read a statement from the entire Knoxville Varsity Baseball Team that said, "The players on the Knoxville Varsity Baseball Team encourage the school to renew Coach Johnson's contract so he can continue coaching this program well into t he future."

In a July letter to Coach Johnson, Superintendent Cassi Pearson outlined a number of issues including, "admitting to Activities Director Rump that he declared an opposing player would take one in the ear hole if an umpire didn't eject him from a game."

Coach Johnson believes the community is well aware of his coaching style, saying, "I know who I am and my players know who I am."

The packed crowd was overwhelmingly in support of Coach Johnson staying at Knoxville because of who he is to them.

"This board should consider naming that baseball stadium after him tonight, instead of getting him out," Darbie Utterback said.

Parents like Melissa Langer reflected. "It's about growing into men. That's what our coaches are really for and I think that's what Coach Johnson has brought into his program."

"It's about growing into men," Langer said. "That's what our coaches are really for and I think that's what Coach Johnson has brought into his program."

Former players like Jared McClung reminisced.

"I don't think I fully realized the importance of how to hit a curveball that life throws at you until Coach J received news about his cancer," McClung said. "He stayed positive and kept his faith."

Also in the letter, Superintendent Pearson stated Johnson did not gain board approval to give away black jerseys to senior players or Wednesday night practices during the school year and violated the federal FERPA law dealing with student records. Much of the public believed in a second chance for Coach Johnson.

"I sure have said a lot of things and done things I shouldn't but we are all humans and make mistakes," Langer said.

Coach Johnson realizes his 600 wins and state championship can never be taken away but there was one subject he demanded back from the board.

"I coach them not you or you, or you and not you. I coach them," Johnson said. "They are my guys, always have been and they forever will be."

None of the 15 public comments spoke against keeping Joel Johnson as the school's baseball coach.

The topic was not on the agenda and prevented board members from commenting but Johnson told Channel 13 News that the school board had mentioned placing it on their November meeting.  He is allowed to re-apply for his position.

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