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UPDATED: Villavaso out as Vandebilt’s football coach

A spokesman with the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux confirmed today that Brad Villavaso is no longer the head football coach or a school employee at Vandebilt Catholic High School.

The spokesman declined to discuss the reasons behind Villavaso’s departure from the football team, citing personnel privacy issues.

Repeated phone calls and text messages made to Villavaso today haven’t been returned. In 14 years at Vandebilt, Villavaso has a 68-59 record. He led the Terriers to a 11-2 record and a District 7-4A title last season.

“We acknowledge his years of service and we wish him the best,” the spokesman said.

When contacted this evening, Vandebilt principal James Reiss declined to comment on the details involving the situation, but he said the coach and the school had “philosophical differences” on matters affecting the team. Vandebilt president David Keife didn’t return messages for this story.

A source close to the situation said the dispute centers on Villavaso and a 17-year-old junior football player on the team. The source, who is close relative of the football player’s family, declined to release the name of the player.

The source said Villavaso sent a series of "threatening" text messages to the player earlier this month. A copy of the text messages between Villavaso and the player, which were given to The Courier and Daily Comet this evening, showed the coach threatening to kick the player off the team if he didn’t pass on the names of certain teammates who were with him at the Marriott Hotel in Houma in early October.

The player, who gave the coach names of four teammates, attended tutoring sessions at the Marriott that night and wasn't involved in any wrongdoing, sources said. The source said Villavaso never mentioned to the player why he needed the names, or if the player did anything wrong.

The player later quit the team, the source said, a few days before an Oct. 11 game against South Terrebonne. The player, sources said, quit “after being bullied and threatened by the coach” via text messages.

The player said he and Villavaso agreed to meet several times to discuss rejoining the team, including the day of the South Terrebonne game, but the source said the coach kept postponing meetings with him.

The family said Villavaso violated state law and Diocese policy by contacting the student by text messaging and by sending “threatening messages." According to the Diocese’s Electronic Communication’s Policy, school employees are prohibited from contacting students by personal electronic communication such as text messages, e-mail or on social networks.

The source said the player’s family has met with Vandebilt and Diocese officials on numerous occasions throughout the last four weeks to resolve the issue. During all meetings, they repeatedly asked Villavaso for what team rules the player violated or broke, but the coach declined to tell them. They said Villavaso also refused to mention any discipline used against the player during that time.

The source said the family didn’t push for Villavaso’s removal from the Vandebilt coaching job, and they also had no plans to file legal matters against the coach or Vandebilt.

“This was not the route we wanted to take. We didn’t want to ruin school’s reputation. We just wanted (Villavaso) to move on and do the right thing,” the source said. “We didn't want him to get fired. We wanted the issue to get resolved. All the player wanted to do was play football for Vandebilt Catholic.”

The family and player met with Villavaso one final time on Nov. 1. At the meeting, they say Villavaso apologized to the player and family and agreed to reinstate the player on the team. The family said the school officials, including Reiss, also apologized to the player, who was invited by Villavaso to travel with the team to a District 7-4A game against Morgan City that night. The player didn’t play in the game.

The Diocese spokesman said the player is still a student at Vandebilt and a member of the football team.

According to source, Villavaso met with school officials and refused to allow the player back on the team today. School and Diocese officials declined to say what went on during those meetings, but the source said Villavaso was fired after refusing to let the player back. The source mentioned that Villavaso addressed the team before its practice today, where he told the team he was dismissed and that he was taking a few days off to seek legal matters against Vandebilt.

The Diocese spokesman said the school hasn’t named an interim coach for the remainder of the season. He said the current assistant coaches will split the head coaching duties.

Vandebilt, which has a 6-3 overall and 3-0 District 7-4A record this season, will host district rival Ellender in its season finale at 7 p.m. Friday. The Terriers are coming off a 28-13 win over Morgan City last week, which helped it clinch at least a share of the District 7-4A title.