Supporters of Masuk football coaches call for end to investigation of the program

Brian Christy talked about his father, Steve, and Eric Giordano, two Masuk football coaches on administrative leave pending an independent investigation of the football program, during the Board of Education meeting Monday.

MONROE, CT — Parents expressing support for Masuk Head Football Coach Steve Christy and Associate Head Coach Eric Giordano, who are both on administrative leave pending an independent investigation into the culture of the football program, kept the heat on the Board of Education and district administrators during the public comment portion of Monday night’s board meeting.

Several parents who spoke said they believe the findings in a police report exonerated the coaches of any wrongdoing, contended the district is wasting taxpayer money by hiring an attorney to do a third-party investigation, and complained about the lengthy process and lack of information being shared with the public.

On June 2, a parent filed a police complaint alleging a coach provided alcohol to minors at his home between 2010 and 2011, that the Masuk High School administration covered up parental concerns regarding the football program, and that the coaching staff showed a “blatant disregard” for medical protocol. The parent also accused one assistant coach of using “inappropriate sexual references and repeated use of gay and homophobic rhetoric.”

According to a report released on Sept. 1, the Monroe Police Department found all of the complaints to be unsubstantiated, with the exception of the sexual and homophobic rhetoric, which was referred to Monroe Public Schools should it wish to handle it as a personnel matter.

The officers also recommended more communication about injuries and medical conditions among players and coaches.

Brian Halapin continues to serve as interim head coach in Christy and Giordano’s absence. The Panthers recently improved their record to 2-0 following a 50-12 win over Stratford High School, a conference foe, on the road Sept. 15.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Marie Blake said Principal Steve Swensen conducted an internal investigation and the Department of Children and Families also investigated the complaints without finding wrong doing.

“Whoohoo, we should be elated. All of the allegations were unsubstantiated,” she said. “But I know by your actions that you, the Board of Education, were not satisfied with this process. You voted unanimously and in executive session on July 5th to hire outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation, even before the Monroe PD investigation was completed.”

I should be noted that Board of Education meeting minutes for July 5, 2023 shows a unanimous vote to go into executive session to discuss complaints against the football program, but no vote on whether or not to investigate the football program is included.

Blake said if board members had confidence in the internal investigation, Swensen, DCF and the Monroe Police Department, they would not have hired outside counsel.

“Why didn’t you wait for the Monroe PD report to be closed and use the results of it to dictate your actions with regards to Christy and Giordano?” she asked. “You can’t claim that you wanted an expedited investigation, because today is day 76 of your investigation and as far as I know it didn’t conclude today.”

Blake said the only conclusions she can draw are board members do not have confidence in DCF’s decision and the Monroe Police Department’s investigation or they are continuing to pursue the investigation to find the answer they want.

“Your course of action baffles me,” she said, noting that parents did not hear the board’s rationale for hiring an investigator for an independent investigation at taxpayer expense.

Diana Champagne, whose sons play football, asked what programs the district may consider cutting to pay for the outside counsel, rather than conducting its own investigation, and what deadline the investigator was given to finish the report.

“Now I know that you won’t provide me with an answer now or the community tonight, but I do expect a response in an email in some form, because we need to be heard and we need answers,” she said.

Nicole Conti said she wanted to make it clear that she and other supporters of coach Christy and Giordano were there to “advocate” for them.

“Virtue signaling townspeople have attempted to turn our advocacy into what is openly being described as an angry mob,” she said. “People are manipulating our support by calling it preference, disregarding official conclusions made by the Monroe Police Department by twisting it into conjecture.”

Whether or not there is validity to the allegations, Conti said the investigation lasting longer than 74 days is unacceptable for everyone involved.

She said the situation will not end with the conclusion of the investigation, but only when there is accountability for the Board of Education for conducting the investigation at taxpayer expense.

“We recently saw North Haven investigate its football program and it took four days and zero dollars, but this board did not have the same faith in Monroe school staff,” Conti said. “This process has allowed a mockery to be made of two men, a great team, a winning program and our lovely town.”

“There is no shame in our culture,” she added. “There is no shame in our support. We will always be the Masuk football family and there is not a thing this process will do to change that. Until Coach Christy and Coach Giordano are reinstated, we are not Masuk yet. Team first.”

Melissa Roy shared what the two coaches meant to her family and her late son, Sted. She called Giordano “the true definition of a mentor, teacher, coach and friend.”

Roy recalled how “Mr. G” bonded with her son as his seventh grade English teacher and later as a football coach at Masuk.

“My son had struggles and G knew that, but no matter how busy life is G always reached out to him,” she said. “At 25 my son passed away tragically. My family and I agreed that G was the perfect person to stand up and share his eulogy. It was the most heartfelt speech you could imagine.”

In the Panthers’ home opener in 2022, Christy and Giordano held a ceremony in honor of Sted and presented Roy with her son’s framed jersey. “These men cared about their players and treated them like their own,” Roy said.

When Roy’s niece, Izzy, was a senior, Roy said Giordano made it a point to ask her to bring her brother, William, who is autistic, to his classroom. They bonded and had lunch together during Giordano’s free periods, Roy said, adding, after Izzy graduated, Giordano continued to look out for Roy’s nephew.

“William is a junior now and he has special needs,” Roy said. “He doesn’t have friends and he doesn’t have Mr. G for a safe place. This is a shame. You’re not only hurting the coaches, but you are hurting the kids. The kids need their teacher back and the players need their coaches back.”

Cody Hoskins was coached by Christy in Pop Warner and by Giordano at Masuk. “They’re both passionate men,” he said. “Now sometimes that passion can be misconstrued, but it’s always directed number one, to the betterment of the kids and number two, the betterment of the program overall.”

Hoskins said they instilled the importance of character, accountability and respect in him and his teammates.

“I’m a teacher now as well,” he said. “I still coach in this district. I’m a father now and I owe a lot of that to those men in those crucial developmental years. They helped shape me and turn me into the man I am today.”

Brian Christy, Coach Steve Christy’s son, said his father has been a staple in the community for over 20 years with no negative instances.

“When it comes to my father, I’m sure you’ll think anything I say is biased, and that’s fair,” Christy said, “even though hundreds of other parents and former players have stepped forward to voice their disgust with the situation.”

Christy spoke of how much his father cares about his players, recalling a time when he coached at Harding High School and brought dinners there, because some kids couldn’t afford food — to the point where his mother would get upset over the cost.

“When she died, every player was there in uniform to bury her,” a choked up Christy said of his mother. “If that’s not love and respect for a coach, I just don’t know what is anymore.”

He said Giordano has been like a big brother to him, ever since he became Christy’s offensive line coach at Masuk. “We went from being a group of discombobulated individuals to a unit of brothers,” he said. “This was only accomplished through hard work, accountability, and the respect we had for Eric Giordano, as he played a major role in shaping us into successful men and athletes.”

“I am very concerned over the state of the school system and where things are going if we allow this to continue to happen,” Christy said of the investigation. “This is an embarrassment to the system and needs to be addressed immediately.”

“I hope you take notice of all these people and their support and make the right decisions sooner than later, not only for the sake of my father and Eric, but also for these kids who have dedicated years to this program and are now losing out on two of their biggest assets,” he said.

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