Lake Zurich football coach denies wrongdoing as he, AD, assistant resign after hazing scandal
Lake Zurich High School's head football coach, his assistant and the athletic director are heading out the door amid an investigation into hazing last fall.
But head coach David Proffitt denies any wrongdoing, saying he didn't learn about any inappropriate behavior until after the fact and he would have stopped it right away had he known.
Lake Zurich Unit District 95 board members Thursday night approved the resignation of athletics boss Rolando Vazquez effective June 30. As part of a package of other personnel actions, the board also accepted the resignation of high school dean Chad Beaver, who was an assistant football coach, effective Jan. 20.
Proffitt, also a physical education teacher, submitted his resignation letter Thursday afternoon, District 95 Superintendent Kaine Osburn said. Proffitt's request is expected to be approved at a board meeting later this month.
The resignations come in the wake of an investigation that indicated inappropriate behavior in the football locker room occurred about a week before a Nov. 5 playoff game against Fenwick High School, according to District 95. Emails obtained from the district referred to the activity as hazing.
Proffitt, 70, said in a telephone interview Thursday evening he did nothing wrong and submitted his resignation in the best interest of the high school and Lake Zurich community. Proffitt said he became aware of what the teenagers were doing in the locker room only after the fact, but he declined to reveal specifics.
"If I had known what was going on, I would have blown that thing up quicker than you can blink," said Proffitt, who has a $44,581 base salary for 2016-17.
Proffitt became a head football coach in Lake Zurich in 2012. Before that, he enjoyed a 12-year run at Marian Central Catholic from 1991 to 2002, taking the Hurricanes to the Class 3A state quarterfinals twice and the semifinals once.
Proffitt said he regrets he was unable to speak to his players after the controversy erupted. He said he appreciates the support he received from the school and beyond while leading the football team.
"I hold Lake Zurich very close and cherish it in my heart," he said.
Osburn thanked Proffitt, Beaver and Vazquez for their service to District 95.
"Although the past few months have been difficult for all of us, all three of these individuals have been dedicated to Lake Zurich High School. We wish them all the best in what they do next," Osburn said.
Neither Vazquez nor Beaver could be reached for comment.
Vazquez, who's receiving a $122,986 base salary for the academic year, was named the school's athletic director in May 2006. He had been Waukegan High School's athletic director before taking the Lake Zurich job.
Beaver started as a physical education instructor and assistant football coach at Lake Zurich High in 2006 and was elevated to school dean in 2012. He will receive $12,146 in severance split into four equal checks through March 31. He has a $72,878 base salary for 2016-17, district records show.
Other reaction to the pending departures came from a Chicago attorney retained by the family of a student-athlete alleged to have been victimized by Lake Zurich players. The lawyer, Antonio Romanucci, handled a lawsuit against Maine West High School in Des Plaines that resulted in a $1 million settlement last year on behalf of five former students who said they were hazed while on the boys soccer team in 2012.
Romanucci said his firm's investigation of the Lake Zurich football squad is wrapping up. He said the resignations "have only heightened our concern as to what exactly has been taking place in the Lake Zurich High School football team's locker room."
District 95 board President Doug Goldberg said an Arlington Heights law firm has completed an internal investigation that includes the football team and other extracurricular activities. He said a report will be made public soon.
Lake Zurich police reports obtained in December by the Daily Herald through an open-records request show police conducted a sexual abuse investigation while looking into allegations of hazing among football players. Authorities concluded they lacked evidence to pursue charges against any athletes, in part due to a lack of cooperation from witnesses.
Police documents show a criminal sexual abuse investigation was launched Nov. 8. Many sections of the documents were blacked out, so it's unclear what specifically might have occurred about 7 p.m. Oct. 27, after a weekly football team dinner at Lake Zurich High.
Beaver told high school resource officer Mark Frey on Oct. 31 he received information about a "commotion" in the locker room during a weekly bonding tradition involving teammates, according to police documents. The tradition involves taking a vote on which player should be teased and dressed in costume, police said.
Documents show Lake Zurich police detective Sgt. Scott Pavlock interviewed Proffitt on Nov. 29.
Pavlock wrote that Proffitt and Vazquez became aware of "a locker-room incident" Nov. 2, six days after the date listed on police documents. The report states Beaver was told about the behavior a day after it purportedly occurred.
Authorities said they began the investigation after the Daily Herald reported all football players were ordered to sign a student behavior agreement before the Fenwick game or be prohibited from playing the rest of the 2016 season. The agreement was part of a letter sent to players and parents.
Beaver and Proffitt have been on paid administrative leave since the controversy began.