Harer not retained, Eyer new coach
MUNCY — The repetitive thud of the plastic seats returning to their folded position echoed off the walls of the Muncy High School auditorium. There was still business to attend to during the monthly school board meeting, but a large majority of those who attended Monday night’s meeting had already heard enough and began to leave.
Their months-long plea for the board to retain Denny Harer as the district’s head wrestling coach ended Monday night as the board approved Royce Eyer to the position Harer held since 2005. Eyer was a two-time state placewinner for Hughesville before winning an NCAA Division III title at Lycoming College in 2001. This is his first high school head coaching job and he replaces a coach who was 231-88 in 13 years leading the Indians, coaching wrestlers to 15 state medals and three state championships.
Eyer was approved as the head coach by a 7-2 vote last night with board members Rhondel Moyle and Justin Reis voting no. Board members Connie Coyne, Ty Fry, Scott McLean, Lisa Sleboda, Robert Titman, Kim Walker and Sarah Woodward voted yes.
Monday night’s vote by the board ended a saga which has seen the Muncy board and athletic committee investigate numerous accusations of wrongdoing against Harer, including use of a sauna and sauna suits, use of diuretics, and ignoring instructions provided by medical professionals in regards to his wrestlers.
There has been plenty of visual and vocal support for Harer, who did not have his contract renewed despite guiding the Indians to a fourth-place finish in the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships in February and helping Joe Klock to the Class AA 132-pound title in March.
Clifford Good, whose sons Coleman and Christian both qualified for the state tournament in March, and Kristy Blair, whose son Jacob is at the center of the most severe accusations, both spoke to the board in defense of Harer last night.
Signs have been posted in yards throughout the school district in support of Harer as well. As he left the auditorium last night, Harer shook the hands of well-wishers in the hallway and laughed and joked with friends in the school’s parking lot.
“I can hold my head high when I walk out of here,” Harer said. “The community needs to take this school district back. For some reason right now, this board seems to think they know what is better than the community for the kids. This community needs to stay together and take back what is theirs.”
“If Denny was an issue, we wouldn’t even put our kids with him,” said Shannon Barrows, whose step-son Dakota Nixon was a two-time state placewinner for Harer. “Our kids go to practice with him to Bucknell and Selinsgrove. If he was anything of an issue or a hazard or anything, we wouldn’t let our kids go with him.”
Although Harer took responsibility for minor infractions prior to this season, he said none of the more serious charges levied against him were true when making his first public comments last night since accusations surfaced in late March.
Earlier this spring Muncy Superintendent Dr. Craig Skaluba told the Sun-Gazette the board’s investigation found the use of saunas and sauna suits, which help can help wrestlers sweat more and lose weight, “were not being prohibited at all times.”
The board also found the wrestling team was using hypohydration, or dehydration, to shed pounds to make weight. Harer was also accused of not adhering to directives provided by a doctor’s note.
Following the board meeting Monday, Harer denied each of those claims. His attorney, Ryan Gardner, denied the claims in detail during the board meeting, calling each of the allegations false.
Each of those allegations revolves around sophomore Jacob Blair, who failed to make weight for the regional tournament despite being ranked as high as No. 1 in the state during the season. He was found to be using laxatives to make weight for the 106-pound weight class, as well as using the sauna at the YMCA.
Despite each of those allegations centering around her son, Kristy Blair said her family was never interviewed by the board about the accusations. In fact, she said she set up a meeting with Skaluba last week to talk about the whole situation.
“I don’t think he listened to me,” Blair said. “When I went in to talk to Mr. Skaluba, he said, ‘I already have my 30-page report signed, sealed and delivered.'”
In her comments during the school board meeting, Blair said she bought the laxatives for her son, but took them away when she found out what he was using them for. She also said she and her husband Tom were aware Jacob was using the sauna but said it was not a practice they preferred.
She also said she was reported to Children and Youth Services for starving her son even though “it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“This has been a huge learning curve for us because this is the first time we’ve let him alter his weight in any way, shape or form,” Blair said. “I can pretty much guarantee you it’ll be the last.”
“All of the allegations levied in 2018 are false,” Gardner said. “Denny has never advocated the use of a sauna or sauna suits. If they were used, they were used with the approval of the parents. He can’t have his feet held to the fire for the decisions of parents.”
Harer said he still has a desire to coach at the high school level. He is still coaching at the Buffalo Valley Regional Training Center at Bucknell University and will continue to do so.
He and Gardner have not ruled out the possibility of a lawsuit, and Gardner even accused the board of “fabricating numerous pieces of evidence” which were used in the decision to not renew Harer’s contract.
“I think (Harer) is very desirous of continuing to coach,” Gardner said. “The question comes, did the board, through its malicious and false accusations, paint Denny in a light where he’s now unemployable as a coach? You have a wrestling coach accused of telling kids to use sauna suits or laxatives and I don’t know that another school district is going to want to touch him despite our adamant attempts to defend all those accusations and demonstrate those aren’t true.”