WASHINGTON — Fred Kim had 14 winning seasons as the football coach of the Screamin’ Eagles at Seneca Valley High School. Until this year.
After 2018’s 2-8 season — the worst in the program’s history — Kim was notified that the coaching job would no longer be his. However, his job as a physical education teacher is not affected by the decision by the school’s administration.
Kim’s December release as football coach came during a season in which Montgomery County police investigated a report of unwanted sexual touching among members of the Seneca Valley High School football team.
Kim said he reported the September incident as soon as he heard about it. He said police and Child Protective Services were notified — there had been concern that it was a case of older players hazing a freshman player.
He said that there was nothing sexual about the incident, and no charges were filed in the case. But there were disciplinary actions taken against the students involved, Kim said.
After five Damascus High School football players were charged with sexual assault in a locker room attack on a freshman player at that school on Halloween, the incident at Seneca Valley was reported in local media, and Kim said, “We kind of got the backlash of the whole Damascus situation.”
Seneca Valley and Damascus high schools are both powerhouses in local high school football.
Kim, who graduated from Seneca Valley, and played football when the team went on to win a state championship in 1987, said that he is not sure if the September incident figured in his dismissal as coach.
Kim said that this year, there were a number of students who ended up cut from the team for violating school policy, particularly in the area of on-time attendance.
“There were about 13 kids that were either dismissed or removed themselves from the team because they weren’t following the rules,” Kim said.
He is not sure if that played a role in his dismissal either. As a coach, he worked to hold students accountable while also giving them second chances, he said.
“We’re educators. We’re here to educate kids. They’re gonna screw up,” he said, adding that many of his students come from challenging situations at home and in their neighborhoods.
The issue of on-time attendance was the subject of an online message from Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen, who wrote in the school’s Principal’s Message on Dec. 21: “This year, we have seen a significant decline in student on-time attendance. This is impacting student grades, is disrupting classes once they are in session, and is establishing bad habits in your kids that are hard to break.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, Cohen wrote that he was grateful for Kim’s service to students and the Seneca Valley High School community. He did not elaborate on why Kim was dismissed.
Kim, who assisted in bringing the Screamin’ Eagles two state championships, said he is not sure what he’ll do. He doesn’t plan to leave his teaching post at Seneca Valley, but he said not coaching football will be difficult.
“That was my love, that was my passion.” He said that coaching wasn’t work to him. “It was my life’s passion and joy to be there.”
WTOP has reached out to Cohen for comment.