Parents, players want answers in Bearden softball coach’s resignation

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – For eight years, Leonard Sams has been coaching the Lady Bulldogs softball team. He started as an assistant coach and took over as the head coach in 2011. However, the Bearden administration announced on June 3, 2015, that Sams would no longer be a part of the program. Three weeks after that announcement,  parents as well as players are still waiting for answers.

“We have no idea,” said Cherie House- her daughter is a rising senior at Bearden High School and plays catcher for the Lady Bulldogs. “The situation is just not explainable.”

House is just one of several Bearden softball parents still reeling from the news that Leonard Sams will not be head coach next season.

“We wanted to burst out in tears,” said House. “I can say that for most of us moms on the team.”

“I was kind of shocked,” said Randy Susong, whose daughter is a rising sophomore at Bearden and is a pitcher for the Lady Bulldogs. “I couldn’t even wrap my head around [it]. What reason could they let Leonard Sams go?”

Just two weeks after Sams led the Lady Bulldogs to the program’s first state tournament appearance, the administration announced that Sams “submitted his resignation” and that he and the high school were “mutually parting ways”.

“As soon as I got the text (about Sams leaving) I started crying,” said Lady Bulldogs infielder Elena Schusterick.

“It kind of just broke us down and we didn’t know where to go from there,” said Lady Bulldogs catcher Maxey House. “We still don’t know where to go.”

WATE 6 On Your Side learned Thursday that the resignation may not have been mutual. There is no letter of resignation in Sams’ personnel file and when WATE 6 On Your Side asked Sams if he resigned, he said he had not yet submitted his resignation. A Knox County Schools spokesperson clarified that the original resignation on June 3, 2015 was a verbal resignation with Bearden High School principal Dr. John Bartlett.

Sams told WATE 6 On Your Side, “I want what’s best for the girls and if the administration decides that keeping me as a coach is best for the girls, and we can reach a mutual agreement, then I want to be coaching.”

Regardless of what the administration decides, some of the Lady Bulldogs have strong feelings about what is actually in their best interest.

“I don’t necessarily want to play for Bearden if Coach Sams isn’t going to be here,” said Lady Bulldogs pitcher Kaylor Susong.

“I want to play for Coach Sams because that’s the whole reason I came to Bearden,” said Maxey. “So unless Coach Sams comes back, I will not be playing on the Bearden softball team.”

“I really don’t want to move schools,” said Schustrick. “But, I don’t want to represent an administration that would do this to a group of girls that really gelled together after the past year and went to state.”

WATE 6 On your Side also reached out to Bearden Athletic Director Nathan Lynn. He referred us to Bartlett who said, in a written statement, “I am appreciative of the hard work, effort and leadership Coach Sams has had in the Bearden High School Softball program. We can have no further comment on personnel issues.”

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