St. James Parish School Board ousts Gaille as Wildcats’ coach

By George Becnel


Veteran St. James coach Rick Gaille will not be on the sidelines for his 20th season as Wildcats coach in 2011. The St. James Parish School Board on Thursday reassigned Gaille within the school system and will begin a search for his successor.

There will be no 20th season for Rick Gaille as head football coach and athletic director at St. James. 

At a St. James Parish School Board meeting Thursday, Gaille was moved to an unnamed position within the school system and a search will begin for the next football coach and athletic director for the west bank school. 

“I can’t get a handle on the politics of it. From either the superintendent or any school board member, I have not been able to find anyone to give me a reason as to why they decided to do it now,” Gaille said. 

Gaille, who was present at the meeting, was planning to retire following the 2011 season – what would have been his 20th as Wildcats coach and athletic director. 

“I knew they were going to consider it,” Gaille said of the school board’s action. “I was planning to retire after next football season. I thought this process would take place in January, but it appears that the west bank members, especially, wanted to do it now. 

“I’ve been very upfront with them that when I finish DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) in July 2012, which this (the 2011) season would be the last football season before that that I was going to retire. They were very well aware that not only this season would have been the 20th, but they would be able hire somebody else after that.” 

Gaille said he finds the timing of the move highly unusual. 

“I’m not only at a complete loss, but other people who are close to the situation are as well,” the coach said. “There is no logical reason to do it right now. Anybody with experience as a head coach and athletic director and is good at it, has a job for next year and they can’t risk that job by applying somewhere else. If you do it after January or after football season, you have a vast pool of people who would be interested in applying and interviewing at that time.” 

St. James Parish Schools Superintendent Alonzo “Lonnie” Luce was unable to be reached for comment Thursday evening as were west bank school board members Patricia Schexnayder and Charles Nailor. The other member representing the west bank of the parish, Richard Reulet Jr. of District 7, offered no specifics concerning the school board’s actions. 

“I can’t tell you any more than it’s a recommendation from the Superintendent,” Reulet said. “He told me the day before what his recommendation would be. He had his reasoning and gave me his information and that’s what I’m going with.” 

Reulet would not comment on Luce’s reasoning. 

“As a school board member, there are certain things you can’t do,” he said. 

Although St. James had losing records each of the last two years, Gaille said he did not believe that was a factor in the school board’s decision. 

“I wouldn’t think so because we did win the district championship each year,” Gaille said of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. “We won district championships three of the last four years and nine out of the 19 years. I don’t know what someone’s motivation would be. 

“I never heard of a circumstance that somebody going into their 20th year that they are not given the opportunity to go out somewhat on their own terms.” 

Although he is being replaced as coach and athletic director, Gaille said he will lead the Wildcats through spring practice which begins May 9. 

“I do what’s in the best interest of the players,” Gaille said. “It’s in the best interest of the players for them to start preparing for next football season.”