Ryan Nett is not one to mince words.
When rumors began flying that first-year Southridge High School football coach Keith Munson would not have his teaching contract renewed, Nett and his teammates weren’t lose their coach without a fight.
“What’s really frustrating is that no one is telling us why,” Nett said Wednesday when he and several teammates got together to talk about their concerns. “We were excited to get a new coach and now they are taking him away. He brought us all together in three months. We went to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.”
Players have posted handmade signs — #KEEP MUNSON — along 27th Avenue and Southridge Boulevard.
And the Suns have received support from their fellow Mid-Columbia Conference Schools. Kennewick, Pasco and Hanford painted “Keep Munson @ SHS” on their spirit rocks.
The Southridge players also painted their school rock, but it quickly was covered up. The rock at Kennewick High also has been painted over, but snippets of the message beneath the coat of white paint still can be seen.
While players and students at Southridge are waiting for someone from the Kennewick School District to give them a definitive answer, the district’s director of communication, Robyn Chastain, said that’s not how the system works.
What’s really frustrating is that no one is telling us why. We were excited to get a new coach and now they are taking him away...
Ryan Nett, Southridge High student
“We don’t comment on personnel matters,” she said. “The school board makes those decisions. There is a meeting on the 24th (of May), and if they take action, it would be then. It has to be done at a meeting. They approve all contracts, hires and retirement.”
Chastain explained that Munson has two contracts — one for teaching and one for coaching.
Munson said he has spoken to district personnel about his contract, but that he would have no comment until after a decision is made.
Munson, who teaches biology and weight training at Southridge, was hired in March 2016 to replace Tony Reiboldt, who resigned in 2015 after five seasons.
The Suns finished 7-5 overall and 4-3 in Mid-Columbia Conference play last fall. A vast improvement from 2015 when they finished 2-5 in MCC play and 4-6 overall.
That improvement, according to the players, has to do with Munson and his style of coaching.
“As a coach, he is very different,” said offensive lineman Mark Meier. “He is very strict and doesn’t allow for any fooling around or being being off task. But he also preaches family. He wants to connect with you.”
Keri Gibson-Perez, whose son Mason Perez was the backup quarterback for the Suns last season, said she hopes the district takes a look at the positive effect Munson has had with the student athletes at Southridge.
“Mason is a shy kid, but he has leadership skills,” Gibson-Perez said. “Keith showed him how to use them. When someone is there and present, that is a valuable person to keep around. I can see that this is affecting Mason. I hope what comes of this is in the best interest of the kids. The kids believe in him.”
As a coach, he is very different. He is very strict and doesn’t allow for any fooling around or being being off task. But he also preaches family. He wants to connect with you.
Mark Meier, Southridge High student
Munson was the defensive coordinator at Belen High School in New Mexico before taking the Southridge job.
“I have had some really good opportunities,” Munson said when he accepted the job at Southridge. “They have been adventures, but I’d like to stay there (Southridge) for a while.”
Munson, who played college football at Montana Tech, has 23 years of coaching experience at the high school and college level.
“He moved his family here from New Mexico on the trust of the school district,” defensive back Thomas Hancock said. “We just want answers, but they (school district) are ignoring us. We care.”
Center Flynn McPheron echoed the sentiment.
“There is a sense of silence,” McPheron said. “They aren’t connecting with us. This is about us, but the ones who can do something aren’t listening.”
And if Munson doesn’t come back?
“Some people would leave (the team),” Meier said. “(Munson) would want us to play. If we didn’t, we would be letting him down.”