A few days before Tracy Claeys was fired, Brainerd coach Ron Stolski, on behalf of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA) Executive Committee, sent an e-mail to University of Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle in support of Claeys.
“There’s not a more loyal, hardworking man than Tracy Claeys,” said Stolski, reflecting the opinion of the MFCA, of which he is executive director. “He’s full of integrity. We felt, unless there is more to the story than simply making uncomfortable comments, he should be retained.”
Stolski, who has coached at Brainerd for more than 50 years, said he didn’t know if Coyle had seen the e-mail or had taken it into account.
“I’m not sure if he saw it,” Stolski said, “But we feel we are keepers of the game, and we couldn’t stand on the sidelines. Looking at his body of work, I know the high regard in which Coach Claeys has been held. We don’t know everything. We hope there’s more to this [firing] than we know. But it’s really disappointing. From what we know, it’s not enough. It’s too thin.”
Minnetonka football coach Dave Nelson, a member of the MFCA Executive Committee and the MFCA Hall of Fame, said he was concerned by the firing’s effect on recruiting.
“It’s sad to hear,” Nelson said. “Tracy and his staff are good coaches and men. We know it’s a good place and a good program, but the way recruiting works these days, any negative is going to be used by other programs.”
Cooper’s Eric Abojei, a 6-5, 310-pound senior offensive lineman and one of Claeys’ prized recruits, was dejected by the firing.
“I’m honestly disappointed,” Abojei said. “I was extremely excited to be coached under him this year. God bless him.”
Later Tuesday night, a parent said the university had told recruits and their families not to speak with the media.
Members of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class have not yet signed national letters of intent. The first day of the NCAA signing period for Division I and II football players is Feb. 1.
Adam Rossow, co-founder of the Northstar Football News, said he believes the status of the current recruits who have committed to Minnesota depends on how quickly a new coach is hired.
“If they move quickly, they shouldn’t lose anyone,” Rossow said. “If they drag their feet, that could be a different story.”
When asked about playing a role in the selection of a new head coach, Stolski said the MFCA had been consulted in the past by university administrators and hopes it’ll have a role again this time around, but it will not attempt to give input unless asked.
“If the U is consistent in their position that they appreciate the support of the high school football coaches around the state, they’ll ask,” Stolski said. “Mark Coyle has heard from us. We gave a position on a coach. We’re going to sit back and see if he reaches out.”