Sarsland changes decision to resign

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 17, 2012 - 12:12 AM

The longtime Elk River coach is the subject of a district probe into complaints about him.

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Elk River boys' hockey coach Tony Sarsland says he has reversed his decision to resign, amid an investigation by the school district.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

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Tony Sarsland said Thursday he has reversed his decision to resign as Elk River boys' hockey coach amid an investigation by the school district.

Sarsland, through an e-mail issued by his attorney, also said the district quickly took him off paid administrative leave from his teaching position at VandenBerge Middle School. He said he has been back in class since Monday, ending the leave that began last Friday.

Attorney Patrick B. Moore's e-mail said the district accepted Sarsland's reversal of his coaching resignation. However, the district said Thursday night in a statement that Sarsland remains on paid leave as a coach even though he returned to teaching Monday.

Neither Casey Mahon, who as spokesman is the only person the district has allowed to speak publicly about the case, nor Sarsland's attorney has disclosed what prompted the investigation. Phone messages left at Sarsland's home have not been returned.

The district has yet to say whether it will at any point grant Sarsland's request to rejoin the team. The Elks wrapped up their regular season Thursday, with playoffs starting next week.

District staff interviewed up to 20 players last Friday as part of an investigation that began Feb. 6. In an e-mail informing the team's families of Sarsland's initial decision to resign, the district said players would be interviewed about "complaints that we have received against Coach Sarsland."

Junior varsity coach Ben Gustafson has been coaching the team in Sarsland's absence, starting with the Elks' upset victory over Maple Grove on Saturday.

After the game, the team visited Sarsland at his home. A parent of one of the players said the boys wanted to celebrate the victory with him.

Since 1993, the Elks have earned six trips to the state tournament -- winning it all in 2001 -- and claimed 12 conference championships.

But in Sarsland's nearly three decades at Elk River, the program has been scrutinized for everything from the coach's ability to control his anger to the players' rough style of play to accusations of recruiting.

Roseville coaches under investigation

Roseville Area Schools said Thursday that it is investigating a complaint about boys' hockey coach Jeff Pauletti and assistant coach Carl Hamre. The district, in a one-sentence statement, did not disclose the nature of the complaint.

Pauletti said Thursday that the district had advised him not to comment. He said the investigation "has nothing to do with"' physical or sexual abuse and emphasized that police were not involved.

Hamre said late Thursday that he was "confident that none of the complaint or allegations will be substantiated in the end."

Pauletti, who became Raiders coach in 2004, and Hamre are continuing to coach the team. The Raiders play their next game Saturday night.

Staff writer Paul Klauda contributed to this report.

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