Head swim coach Mark Howell fired assistant coach Andre Bailey on Feb. 4, justnine days before the team’s biggest meet of the year, the Southern States Conference Championships.
Bailey had been an assistant on the team since 1999.
A few days before his termination, Bailey had an altercation with swimmer Lauren Pitman. Both admitted to using insults and foul language toward each other. Bailey asked Howell to step in, but he elected not to intervene.
“[Howell] sat in a corner laughing- I guess he found it funny,” Bailey said.
“It got to a point where he wasn’t going to do anything, so I defended myself, and said a couple of things I shouldn’t have said.”
The next day, the two coaches had a conversation in which Howell explained to Bailey that he needed to be more professional.
After Bailey said, according to Howell, that there were “certain people he wouldn’t train,” Howell said he had no choice but to let him go.
“Andre was under an evaluation process throughout the entire season,” Howell said.
“Ultimately we just had a difference of philosophies. It wasn’t this particular incident that made me come to my decision. It was different things like coming to practice late and things like that, things that weren’t ethical for a coach to do.”
Several players expressed their disapproval of the termination because of it’s poor timing and because they felt it was unwarranted.
While Bailey lost his job following the incident, Pitman received no reprimand. That bothered not only Bailey but also the swimmers on the team who support him.
“It’s unfair that Andre was fired, but nothing happened to Lauren; she’s still on the team,” said swimmer Albert Lowe.
Howell believes his disciplinary actions were justified.
“There was no reprimand warranted because the incident happened outside of practice,” Howell said.
“I could’ve punished [Pitman] for disrespecting the coach, but he was disrespecting her too.”
Despite the disagreements between Pitman and Bailey, Pitman admits that she wishes the situation could have turned out better.
“People are blaming me and accusing me of getting Andre fired, but it wasn’t my fault,” Pitman said.
“We had our differences of opinions, but I’m sad to see him go. Whatever else he might have been, he was a good coach.”
Both Bailey and Howell applied for the head coaching position after former coach Jorge Olaves resigned at the end of last season.
Howell was given the job despite not having any prior coaching experience, primarily because Bailey did not have a bachelor’s degree, which is an NCAA requirement for being a head coach.
The women placed seventh in the conference championships, and the men finished fourth.
Some of the swimmers feel the team would have done a lot better with Bailey.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we would have placed higher if Andre was at the championships,” Lowe said.
The results of the championships confirmed Bailey’s biggest concern about his termination.
“I am more worried about the swimmers and about the state of the program at FAMU.”
Kevin Fair can be reached at email@example.com.