John Peacock is back as Venice High's head football coach.
He was reinstated as the Indians' head coach on Wednesday, though he'll have to undergo sensitivity training and is suspended for three weeks to start the 2018 season, Venice High principal Eric Jackson announced.
Peacock was fired April 25 for a culmination of incidents dating back to 2009. The latest, involving Braden River High head coach Curt Bradley, caused Venice High officials to dismiss Peacock less than five months after winning the program's second state football title.
The incident between the two district rivals revolved around Bradley's race. A Venice player tweeted a photo of sunblock at Bradley, with the caption asking if that's the kind he uses.
Bradley, who is multi-racial, took offense and penned a letter directed to Peacock, which was copied to school officials and media members. The letter discussed a line was crossed, and it came in the hours following Braden River's punishment for holding illegal practices before spring football's start date.
Venice was responsible for turning in Braden River.
Peacock remained silent with Bradley's letter leading into his dismissal the following week in late April. When he was fired, Peacock took a defiant stance in part of his issued statement.
"I'm appalled at Coach Bradley('s) desperate attempt to exploit today's racial tension to distract from the disgrace he has brought to his program," Peacock wrote. "This has happened because I was the coach that finally stood up and exposed Coach Bradley for cheating in order to protect the integrity of high school football. I knew this could be an outcome of that decision, and I was willing to accept that. As sad and unfortunate as it is, it was the right thing to do and I would do it again."
Eventually, Peacock issued a public apology.
That was referenced in Jackson's statement, which reads:
"Relieving Mr. Peacock from his duties as head coach of our varsity football program has been an extremely challenging situation for everyone involved. There has never been any doubt that all parties are committed to and care deeply about Venice High School and its athletic programs. For the past 11 years as head coach, Mr. Peacock has led Venice High School to unsurpassed success on the football field. That level of success culminated in last year’s amazing state championship. Nonetheless, coaching at the high school level is not always about winning and the successes earned on the field of play. The off-the-field and off-season responsibilities and actions of a head coach are equally as important when representing an entire school community."
"At the core, Mr. Peacock is an extremely dedicated and driven head coach. On one hand, his drive has brought tremendous success to our football program. On the other hand, this same drive has led to instances of poor decisions, embarrassment, and regret. Those instances cannot be taken away but must be learned from. Mr. Peacock’s recent demonstration of remorse and his willingness to be a more supportive and cooperative colleague to his coaching peers as well as to those he competes against is encouraging. He has stated that if given a second opportunity he will be deeply committed to carrying out these positive changes at school and in our community."
"As a school principal, I am privileged to work with an amazing staff of professional educators who help shape our students’ lives. My 25 years in education have taught me that no child is perfect and at times will misstep. We work with our students in a restorative manner to address a misstep or poor decision and help them learn from it. This philosophy can certainly also be applied to coaches, teachers, and administrators who serve our school. We all must continue to grow in our profession, learn from our mistakes to make them teachable moments, and push forward."
"As an educator, I believe we have a responsibility to provide Mr. Peacock with the assistance he needs to become as successful off the field as he has become on it. His words of remorse and willingness to correct his behaviors have influenced our decision to provide him with a second chance. Consequently, Mr. Peacock has received a three-week suspension that begins at the start of the season. Meanwhile, he will continue to complete sensitivity and social media training components that will support his professional growth as a leader of young men. He will also regularly meet with a peer mentor who will reinforce our core values. Our collective goal is for Mr. Peacock to establish greater collegiality and respect within our athletics department and to develop and maintain respectful relationships with the teams and coaching staffs against whom we compete."
Following his dismissal, assistant coach Larry Shannon became the interim head coach and led the Indians during spring football.
That was temporary as the job was not filled in the weeks following spring football.
Other incidents during Peacock's first tenure include the following:
- Forfeiting nine victories from the 2009 season for several FHSAA rule infractions.
- Suspension for the 2017 spring football season for recruiting allegations brought forth by North Port High.
- The visiting coaches office was littered with tissues and diapers when North Port High played at Venice last season.
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