Davidson High School tapped former assistant coach Shawn Smith to be the Warriors’ interim head football coach days after longtime coach Fred Riley was placed on administrative leave.
Smith has been a teacher at Davidson since 2001 and during that time has served on and off as an assistant football coach for a combined total of eight years.
His last year working with the team was 2014, though Smith has also coached the varsity boys basketball team and girls track and field teams in the past. Smith, who has taught in Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) for 23 years, currently teaches world history at DHS.
“He’s somebody that we have faith in. He’s someone that everyone around here knows,” said newly hired Davidson Principal Jason Richardson. “He’s what Davidson needs right now.”
Davidson and MCPSS have been under pressure in recent months after several videos surfaced showing some of Riley’s football players physically attacking other students.
Riley was placed on administrative leave Wednesday, Aug. 8, the week after a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit was filed against MCPSS over those and other alleged attacks.
In May, the family of former DHS quarterback Rodney Kim Jr., 14, released a video of their son being attacked by roughly 15 of his teammates after being promoted to the school’s varsity team.
Kim’s arm was broken during the attack, and his family has since called for Riley to be fired and face criminal charges.
For MCPSS employees, administrative leave is the equivalent of being suspended with pay, though at this point it’s unclear how long Riley’s leave of absence could last or if he’ll be cleared at all. Just last month, Riley said he had no intention of retiring any time soon.
Riley, who would be starting his 15th year as Davidson’s head coach, has been coaching 37 years altogether. His tenure at Davidson has been a successful one — leading the Warriors to the state playoffs 10 times including a trip to the semifinal round in 2010.
Several of Riley’s former players and other coaches have come to his defense and said any suggestion that he tolerates or encourages a “culture of violence” is untrue. Dennis Hayford, the area director of the Southern Alabama Fellowship of Christian Athletes, even wrote a lengthy op-ed in support of Riley earlier this year.