Six months ago, after the Don Bosco Eagles suffered a heartbreaking loss in their high-school football championship game, Rob Ford vowed he would never stop coaching his beloved team — but on Wednesday, amid spiralling rumours about the ...
Six months ago, after the Don Bosco Eagles suffered a heartbreaking loss in their high-school football championship game, Rob Ford vowed he would never stop coaching his beloved team — but on Wednesday, amid spiralling rumours about the Toronto mayor’s alleged crack-cocaine use, the school board removed that choice.
In announcing Mr. Ford’s ouster as the Eagles’ head coach, the Toronto Catholic District School Board also banned the mayor from coaching any football team in the board, which serves close to 100,000 elementary and secondary students city-wide. The decision comes as a massive blow to Mr. Ford, whose dedication to the team appeared to trump City Hall business; fellow councillors have repeatedly chastised him for leaving meetings early to attend practice.
School board spokesman John Yan denied any link between Mr. Ford’s termination and recent news reports detailing a video in which the chief magistrate allegedly smokes from a crack pipe and dismisses the Don Bosco Eagles as “minorities.” (The National Post has not seen the video and cannot verify its authenticity.)
“This decision absolutely has nothing to do with the unsubstantiated allegations against the mayor,” Mr. Yan said, noting the board recently concluded a separate investigation into Mr. Ford’s “negative and derogatory” comments about the school community to Sun News in March.
“We’re moving in a different direction… We’ve been trying to keep the business and politics of the mayor’s office at City Hall,” Mr. Yan said. “It just hasn’t worked out that way, and the distractions for the entire school community, as well as the [Sun News] comments, were part of our consideration.”
In the March interview, Mr. Ford said his goal as volunteer coach of the Don Bosco Eagles was to keep team members in school, noting many students at the north Etobicoke high school came from “gangs” or “broken homes.” He added: “If it wasn’t for this football, these kids just wouldn’t go to school. They’d have no reason to go to school… I use the football as a carrot.”
In a letter made public shortly after the interview, outraged Don Bosco staff rejected Mr. Ford’s comments as “extremely demeaning” and “no reflection of the real Don Bosco.” The board swiftly launched its investigation, although the timing of Wednesday’s announcement left many speculating that the crack-cocaine furor played a greater role in the mayor’s dismissal.
“In the midst of all this, it would be very difficult for the school board to keep him on as a football coach,” said Councillor John Parker, who has urged the mayor to address the drug allegations head-on. “There are just too many unanswered questions.”
At Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School Wednesday afternoon, the football field was deserted, but a small group of young men tossed a pigskin back and forth in front of the school’s front doors. When approached by reporters, several students were hostile, refusing to answer questions about the latest developments surrounding Mr. Ford.
One young man who said he played tackle for the Eagles reiterated the school board’s message about the mayor’s departure, saying “it’s about moving the team forward. It’s not about what’s going on in the media.”
He said team members found out Wednesday that they would have a new coach next year.
“We’re going to miss him as a coach,” the young man said of Mr. Ford. “He was a good coach.”
Etobicoke, where Mr. Ford served as councillor for a decade before being elected mayor in 2010, is the heart of Ford Nation, and many residents remained dubious Wednesday about the veracity of the crack-cocaine allegations. Betty Waddell, who has lived in the area for half a century, said Mr. F