CARMEL, Ind.-- Players and parents in Carmel are getting ready to take to the streets this weekend to march in support of the girl's high school basketball coach, who was removed from his position last week.
The players chanted "free Coach Windlan," wore the saying on shirts and held it on posters a day in advance of the march.
"We're having people who support coach Windlan march with us and show the support to him that he deserves and we're also including all the other sports teams that support him but also who have had similar situations with their head coach," player Amy Dilk said. "So it's a march for Windlan but at the same time it's a much bigger thing, we're supporting all the coaches."
Earlier this month, Principal Tom Harmas said a review of the basketball program, which included talking to student-athletes, was conducted and that an action plan was put in place, though there would be no change in the head coach. However last week, the district released a statement announcing Coach Tod Windlan was removed from the position.
"For the past month, Carmel High School administrators have been conducting a review of the girls basketball program. During this time, multiple interviews occurred with student athletes, members of the coaching staff as well as parents. On April 13, Carmel High School sent a communication to parents of the girls basketball team stating an action plan would be put in place to guide the program going forward. Upon further examination by the Carmel Clay Schools administration, it has been determined that there is a need to change the direction of the girls basketball program. Carmel Clay Schools is committed to providing our student athletes the best environment to succeed. Effective today, Carmel High School will begin the search for a new girls basketball head coach. We expect to have a new coach in place for the 2018-2019 season to lead our team of outstanding student athletes."
"I think we just really want an explanation on why they changed their minds because they originally released a statement on April 13th that everything was fine, and we went ahead with our plans for the next season and then in 7 days that changed" head team manager Bri Richter said. "We want a transparent explanation of why."
Both players and parents want to know the reasoning for the change in decision, describing the positive experience they've had with Coach Windlan.
"First and foremost it's just the process. They went through this whole investigative process with getting the girls out of their classes and taking time out of their schedule to have these interviews well documented and obviously there were no major issues within the entire team. Clearly there's someone complaining but not the majority," parent Eddie Gill said.
"We as parents have been told that the move to change the program has been done because there's division in the program, as you can see from the kids that have talked on camera today our girls are not divided, in fact this is probably as unified as this team could ever be," parent Aaron Seitz said.
After the announcement of Coach Windlan's removal, FOX 59 talked to interim co-superintendent Roger McMichael after a school board meeting Monday and asked whether students will get further explanation on this matter.
"The issue they're referring to is a personnel matter," McMichael said at the time. "We do not discuss or share personnel matters. More consideration was given to the matter, the decision was changed."
But Carmel is not the only school district where players and parents are defending their coach. At Center Grove High School, they are are showing support for head football Coach Eric Moore. The district there said there's an investigation into accusations Moore was verbally abusive towards players.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner said they received complaints on both issues that were passed on to the schools.
"Just disgruntlement about the behavior of the coach, how they addressed the student athletes, in some cases their language, some cases their derogatory language toward a student athlete or toward a team, things of that nature so we just returned that to the school," IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said.
Cox said neither district, though, has asked IHSAA for help. He said typically there are two sides to each story,. He tries to look for both sides and usually finds what's closest to the truth somewhere in the middle.
"There's no place in education based athletics for vulgarity, there's no place for derogatory or slanderous terms. We're trying to teach these young people to be better citizens and learn some lessons," Cox said. "I'm not upset with a coach if they're tough on kids because I think kids need to be driven to the highest levels of their participation that they can get to and sometimes a couch has to get tough. But I think you can do that in a positive manner, I think you can do that without vulgarity and I think you can do that without derogatory terms and you can reach your desired result."
Some student-athletes in Carmel said Coach Windlan has taught them lessons, though, both on and off the court.
"What people need to understand is that although Coach Windlan is a tough coach he really prepares you for college and life actually ," player Tomi Taiwo said. "It's not just about basketball here at high school it's about taking that to the next level."
The march starts at 5 p.m. Saturday at the high school.