The Horry County School District has a hard decision to make: what does it do with Chuck Jordan?
It could relieve him of his duties as football coach and risk a lawsuit or send him out onto the field for another season and possibly face protests from students and parents.
Jordan, in many ways, is the Conway football program. In more than three decades on the sideline he has won 278 games — eighth all-time among coaches in the Palmetto State — to go along with four trips to the Class 4A state title game. Those numbers don’t tend to matter much at this moment, though.
Following an on-campus altercation in May with 17-year-old Conway High student Ka’Brian Hickman, the longtime football coach was placed on administrative leave with pay. He later was arrested and charged with third-degree assault and battery for his alleged role in the incident, though the case was dismissed last week by Conway municipal prosecutor Sanford Graves.
Though able to put his legal woes behind him, the matter of Jordan’s return continues to twist in the wind as he has yet to be reinstated by the school district.
On Monday, dozens arrived at a workshop for school trustees pleading for the coach not to return to his familiar place on the sideline. Many more filled e-mail inboxes of county school board representatives, hoping to sway things in their favor.
A common theme in the complaints is that someone entrusted with the safety and well-being of students should not forcefully place their hands on a student, much less one with cognitive disabilities. The group also believes if Jordan was black, there would not be any conversation of reinstatement — only him being relieved of his duties.
Conversely, supporters of Jordan claim he merely was doing his duty to protect students against a young man alleged to have been acting recklessly, and was able to successfully defuse a potentially volatile situation.
Jordan’s future hinges on a ruling by Horry County school officials, who are not bound to decide on the matter by the time Conway’s season kicks off next Friday night, said Horry County Schools communications director Teal Britton.
No matter what way the group leans, their decision is likely to be met with anger and disgust.
Been here before
The City of Conway has already walked this road — with Jordan the focal point, as he is now.
Back in 1989, the program boiled over in controversy after Jordan chose to start Mickey Wilson — now football coach at Myrtle Beach High School — ahead of incumbent Carlos Hunt, a black player. The year before, Hunt guided the Tigers to an 8-4 record.
The majority of black players boycotted the rest of the season.
Some already are calling for a similar protest, potentially wrecking a season that mere weeks ago was chock full of promise in “The Backyard.”
The trouble is, if the longtime Conway football coach is not reinstated, Horry County Schools could find themselves in the line of fire.
Could Jordan sue? Possibly, but not until after being given the opportunity to formally appeal the ruling in front of members of the school board.
There is also the potential for the Horry County Schools to take no action on Jordan’s situation at all, allowing him to continue receiving a paycheck.
Don’t expect critics of Jordan to support this, already fuming about the longtime Conway coach continuing to pull a check from Horry County Schools. Last year, he earned more than $93,545 in addition to funds drawn from the state’s Teacher & Employee Retention Incentive program.
Similarly, Jordan isn’t likely to be satisfied with that course of action, potentially filing suit in an effort to be reinstated and leaving even less wiggle room for school officials around a contentious and controversial situation.
On several occasions during Monday’s school board workshop, one sentiment came up between Jordan’s supporters and critics a couple times: If you don’t like it, how about you run for school board?