Weston Cypress Bay football coach Mark Guandolo has been suspended by Broward County schools for two weeks a day after television cameras caught him slapping the helmet of Lightning quarterback Lucas Tellefsen during a national broadcast on ESPN.
A statement issued by Broward County schools stated Guandolo is suspended from participating in any athletic activities for two weeks and suspended without pay for three days. The Lightning only has one game during that time, a Sept. 6 matchup with Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson.
“Upon becoming aware of the incident during the Cypress Bay football game, I immediately directed staff to look into the situation,” Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie wrote in a statement. “I expect every staff member to adhere to the highest professional standards in every aspect of their interactions with our students.”
The incident occurred during the second quarter of an afternoon preseason game between Cypress Bay High and Plantation American Heritage, which was televised on ESPN’s High School Football Kickoff.
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Guandolo released a printed statement late Monday night apologizing for the incident.
“I want to take this opportunity to apologize for my actions on the sideline this past Sunday,” Guandolo said. “My actions unfortunately took away from the spotlight of the incredible academic and athletic programs we have worked so hard to create at Cypress Bay High School. I accept full responsibility and any resulting discipline that administration deems appropriate for my sideline conduct.”
Guandolo, a 26-year veteran coach in South Florida, was quoted Sunday as saying he felt upset and disappointed about the incident and spoke to Tellefsen and his father, Eric, after the game and met with them and Cypress Bay officials again Monday morning.
“I’ve known the family for a long time,” Guandolo said following Sunday’s game. “We’re friends. Eric Tellefsen understands how I coach Lucas up, and he’s fine. We’ve known each other for years.”
Guandolo and other unhappy coaches are seen yelling at Tellefsen, who had just overthrown a wide receiver on a third-and-7 play from the 25-yard line.
Guandolo is seen getting close to Tellefsen and then suddenly giving him a strong, open-handed smack to the left-side of the player’s helmet, making Tellefsen reel back.
Social media outrage ignited at Guandolo’s treatment of the player. A clip of the slap was quickly posted on YouTube. Many spectators at the game did not see the slap, but viewers watching saw it up close. Runcie was at the game and was informed of the incident.
After the game, Guandolo said he “was just trying to fire the kid up. I love him to death. We have a great relationship. It looks worse than it is. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Guandolo said Tellefsen was nervous during his first career start and he was just trying to get him going.
Cypress Bay was trailing 14-7 in the second quarter at the time of the incident and eventually lost 38-14.
Tellefsen scored Cypress Bay’s second touchdown — accounting for the team’s lone score on offense — on a 5-yard run with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
“I should’ve done it a different way,” Guandolo said. “I hugged him after and just tried to find ways to get him to compete and he did. He really finished strong, and I was proud of him.”
After the video of the slap went viral Sunday, former Cypress Bay players took to Twitter to defend the popular veteran coach, saying the smack was all part of football.
“Man coach G has nothing but love for his playersif Coach G didn’t coach me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today,” former Cypress Bay linebacker Nico Marley tweeted. Marley is a freshman at Tulane University.
Guandolo began his coaching career in South Florida in 1987 and has coached at Opa-locka Monsignor Pace, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, Miramar, Miami Southridge and now Cypress Bay. He has two state title wins, and became the first coach in the state’s history to lead three different programs to the finals (Miami Southridge in 1999; Chaminade in 2002, ’03, ’05; Cypress Bay 2012).
“During the last 30 years of coaching, I have dedicated my life toward providing young men and women with the tools to become successful,” Guandolo said in his statement Monday. “Those tools and their application drive me every day. My sincerest thanks to everyone who has offered their support and prayers. Again, I apologize for my actions.”