UPDATE: West Seattle High School football coach Marcis Fennell resigns after one year

1:28 PM: West Seattle High School principal Brian Vance says the school has accepted the resignation of Marcis Fennell after his first year as head football coach. Fennell sent WSB a copy of his resignation letter; you can read it here (PDF). He cites “many reasons” for leaving, including “unwarranted resistance” to his “attempt to change the culture of the program.” Vance says school administration is sending a letter to program families this afternoon, and that the school will launch a search for a new head coach, though it’s a lot later in the year than the traditional time for such searches. Fennell went winless during his year of coaching the Wildcats; in his resignation letter, he says that he inherited only “1 returning varsity player with significant playing time from the season prior.” His hiring was announced in March 2017.

ADDED 2:56 PM: WSHS athletic director Corey Sorenson has just sent us the aforementioned letter that’s gone out to families; read it here (PDF). In part, Sorenson writes, “I would like to thank Coach Fennell for the endless amount of time and energy he invested into our student athletes at West Seattle High School. During Coach Fennell’s time as Head Coach at West Seattle High School, our school has seen increases in the number of two-sport athletes, overall team GPA and community outreach from within our football program. I want to assure all the families and athletes that moving forward we will be having a football program next fall at West Seattle High School.” He also told families that while WSHS searches for a new head coach, assistant athletic director Jeremy Marzofka “will be running team activities and workouts.”

29 Replies to "UPDATE: West Seattle High School football coach Marcis Fennell resigns after one year"

  • shockley June 15, 2018 (4:10 pm)

    Unless the person in question wants to step up and say what “culture” it was he was trying to change, explain what he was attempting to change it to, and what about the “resistance” was “unwarranted”, this is just a load of highly unprofessional sour grapes.Not what I’d expect from someone whose actual, literal job is to be a “team player”.

  • WSHS Parent June 15, 2018 (4:36 pm)

    Mr. Fennell’s letter is consistent with my family’s experience with athletics at WSHS. The AD, though Ernest, seems in over his head, and the new principal, Mr. Vance, seems clueless about a multitude of issues across sports, including serious fundraising and other concerns.

  • s June 15, 2018 (4:52 pm)

    Why was the parent group hostile?  Sounds like he was an enthusiastic coach and handed a pretty bum situation.  Is there more to the story?  I’d like to understand better.

    • Cindy June 18, 2018 (5:56 pm)

      Yes, there is more to this story! Coach Fennell had everything stacked against him from the day he stepped foot in that school! From practice jerseys that were there one day and disappeared the next. He inherited a negative account for football funds of thousands of dollars and cleared that balance with lots of money to spare! I was at a football game this past season and his wife asked if there where hot dogs and was told in a very nasty tone by a important person connected with the school that this was not a place to feed her kids dinner! You had parents who did not like Coach Fennell for holding their darling sons accountable and sent annynomous emails to Coach because they were not adult enough to address the issues themselves. When you don’t have the backing of your athletic directors, you pretty much have nothing! The athletic directors don’t respond to emails and when they do it’s weeks later. They are to busy “coaching” other sports then focusing on their job they were hired for! When students who don’t play football even state how CoachFennell was treated was unfair not only by some players, parents and admin. What Coach do you know that went through a very rough year, and 0-8 season and still hosts a banquet of a three course meal and lettermen jackets for roughly 28 players including those who did not deserve it! He may not have been able to reach the players who gave him the most resistance, he was able to reach out to many of the players and taught hem life lessons- according to other statements on this thread. This is a major loss to WSHS and it’s one that will effect them for sometime. They will not meet someone like Coach Fennell who can replace him! Congratulations to the school that will hire him, you have an amazing coach and human being! 

      • C-Note June 18, 2018 (7:41 pm)

        Cindy:please get you facts straight. I’m not “against” Coach Fennell, but I am against falsehoods. I have heard several on this thread, including from you. I was an assistant on the previous staff, and we left the account in the Black. That is a fact.  Coach Fennell was the benefactor of a huge donation from a former WS alumni (a Greek shipping magnate). Coach Fennell had The same equipment the previous team had when they WENT TO PLAYOFFS.  He KNEW what he was stepping into, and it was NOT that bad of a situation. By all means, be a fan of Mr Fennell If you choose.  But do not spread falsehoods about other people when in fact YOU HAVE NO CLUE.

  • WSHS alumni June 15, 2018 (6:50 pm)

    As alumni and heavily involved in the program when we had an amazing run, all I can say is, the true support and recognition of accountability from the AD, district, and school officials has been an issue in many recent years. The commitment to development, accountability, team work, has been long gone because the decision makers are informed or well educated enough on maintaining successful growth. Very similar to why the Rainier Beach baseball coach resigned. Rather than immediate gratification and commitment from parents, school officials, the AD to truly commit like the boosters back in the day, it’s all want and no true commitment or participation hence the programs and kids who deserve real chances lose. 

  • WSHS parent June 15, 2018 (7:02 pm)

    Marcis Fenell was and is an amazing coach and had he not hit roadblocks with soft parents that don’t understand the commitment it takes to play football and a resistant administration he would have seen success in the coming years. His dedication to the students, their grades and their overall physical health along with his want of creating a viable WS FOOTBALL program in our community that competes and keeps the local kids at home was unmatched.   His vision was outstanding and nobody gave him a chance! Football is a tough and rough sport, it isn’t PC. This sport wasn’t and isn’t my favorite but what Marcis taught my boy in one year was more than he ever learned in the previous three off and on the field. He connected with the boys who were willing to work and tried to encourage and inspire the kids who were hesitant. He gave his all to the program and the boys in his time at WSHS. This is an incredibly sad day, you can say goodbye to WSHS football in the short term. You had a chance and blew it. I only wish my boy had more time with Marcis as a coach! 

    • Mike June 16, 2018 (6:36 am)

      Reading the responses here, sounds like parents don’t like a coach that makes kids put in the work and there wasn’t enough support in funds.  I did a google search on the football coach of my high school (I never played but had him as  a teacher).  I had laugh at the ratings parents gave him in a yelp review style rating.  “mean” “macho”  I never played high school sports, but I never thought he was mean, macho sure, but he was also a coach that cranked out some of the best football and baseball players in the state year over year.  Quite a few went on to play NFL and MLB.  High school sports are very competitive.  Not every kid will make the cut.  Those that do will be required to put in the work, which is a LOT of work to have a team that can win.  As for funding, I’m not sure what they’re doing for fund raisers at WSHS, but this area is so full of extra cash now it should be a no brainer to get funding.

  • Puzzled June 16, 2018 (12:24 am)

    Hmmmmm. Let me get this straight. Mr Fennell had just been nominated and close to getting the WSHS Golden Apple Award and now this? Doesn’t make sense

  • JR June 16, 2018 (6:56 am)

    As a long-time, multi-sport coach with SPS, I can attest that there are constant challenges coming from Administrations and Parents.  Diverse philosophies abound, and the value placed upon (and experience with) athletics programs is inconsistent.  And it gets fiery when parental instincts are thrown into the mix.  That’s just the way it is.  I know this coach did his due diligence when he took the job, but I guess you don’t know the reality until you live it.  This was his first head-coach job, correct?  Baptism by fire- I’m sure he will learn a lot from this experience, and hopefully he’ll get back on the horse sometime, somewhere with a better understanding.Across the District, coaches manage to persist and grow programs.  Sometimes they fail.  My questions are, were the numbers of kids getting involved growing or shrinking?  that’s the true mark of a healthy program regardless of your philosophy.  Wins follow.  Was the program at least getting wins against schools w/ comparable talent?  That’s the next benchmark.I wouldn’t try to argue if this coach was “great” or “terrible”;  probably, both sides are right from their perspective.  In my experience, it’s a question of “fit”.  I’ve seen great coaches fail, because they expected High School kids to serve “their program” instead of realizing that “their program” was supposed to serve those kids.  Finding balance is tough (especially for young coaches driven by a particular vision- that’s not a criticism, but there is a double-edged sword there).Parting thought: do not cast aspersions on coaches who came before or come after.  This coach needs to own his piece of it. Previous (and successive) coaches had/will have their own situations to deal with, and like everyone else, will do the best they can.It’s part of life, and I hope someone is teaching the kids this:  Don’t judge the coach (or admin) too harshly as individuals, if you haven’t walked in their shoes and felt the burdens they carry in their jobs.  Move on, move forward, and good luck Wildcats.

  • Riley K. June 16, 2018 (8:09 am)

    You can thank Principal Medsker and her Admin’s tenure there for that one. All they accomplished in their time at that school, was inhibiting growing kids and young adults through their awful micro-managing tendencies. The athletics and arts programs there have been in fire need of an overhaul since Bivens left that school. 

    • sw June 17, 2018 (10:09 am)

      Not sure which arts programs you’re referring to.  My kids were involved in Drama and Music from 2011-17, and during that time those two programs flourished.  

  • WSHS dad June 16, 2018 (9:49 am)

    What incredibly frustrating and unfortunate news to read. From what I can tell with my knowledge and interaction around the football team is that Coach Fennell was trying to build a viable program at WSHS. Why shouldn’t he? He wanted a program that could not only compete but a program that could challenge for Metro titles and higher. A program that our local WS kids would want to stay in WS and yearn to play and go to school at WSHS instead of commuting to Prep, Kennedy….A program where “Friday Night Lights” would become a source of pride within the community. Lofty goals yes, but not unreasonable because it works in so many places, it’s a mindset. Obviously WSHS isn’t ready for that type of commitment or work to rise above just mediocre status. Football has NEVER been a strong sport at the school but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Change is good right? With my interactions with Coach I thank him for his vision and everything he did for my son in his brief time at the school. He gave my son a vision, instilled discipline and created a work ethic that I never could have imagined. A father can try as best he can but sometimes it takes someone from the outside to make it click. Thank you Coach Fennell!! I wish you success in your future endeavors. 

    • Karen June 23, 2018 (8:20 am)

      “NEVER”?   WS won the league championship the year I graduated.  There were no ‘stars’, just a lot of team players and a great coach.

  • Observer June 16, 2018 (3:36 pm)

    20 years ago my brother was a volunteer coach for a WS  high school team. He lasted 1 year. Why, pressure from parents was too much. The problem? Most of the parents berated him for not playing their kids enough. Their kids were “stars” and he wasn’t smart enough to see it.  The funniest thing was when he’d challenge these parent’s by saying-“ok, you take over” none of them would step up. Probably because they were afraid to be on the receiving end  of their abuse.

  • SeaHawk June 17, 2018 (11:14 am)

    Come on down to Sealth Folks! The water is fine!

  • WS Mom June 20, 2018 (9:28 pm)

    Not sure if anyone is still following the comments on this thread, but I’d like to commend the athletic director for almost immediately finding a replacement head football coach, and a great one at that.  The new coaching staff had a meeting with parents and players tonight and I was impressed. The boys have had two practices with the new staff this week and my son has come home with renewed enthusiasm for the sport, the team and their chances for having a successful season this fall. I know some of you are loyal to former coach Fennell, but hopefully that doesn’t translate into not supporting coach Scott.  I’m not sure what purpose that would serve. Numbers are already up from the dwindling 17 players the team had by the time Fennell quit. 

  • WSHS sports fan June 20, 2018 (11:30 pm)

    It’s hard to know from the resignation letter why numbers dwindled. As a parent of a non-football athlete, I think the issue may likely have alot more to do with problems inherent to football. The “cultures” of WSHS basketball, baseball, and soccer  for example, do not have the same issues–those programs are exemplary. They provide evidence of outstanding sports culture and participation among students, administrators, and parents at WSHS.Fewer and fewer kids turn out for football because of injuries. Should kids who play baseball or hoops risk blowing out a shoulder? Or lining up against O’Dea’s D1 commits?  And what about head injuries and concussions? It seems that every new study makes the case against football more reasonable. (HS football will endure among a core group of schools, but I predict increasing movement away from HS football…I hear that Lakeside is already moving to flag football due to head injury risks and low participation.)My understanding is that WSHS has to petition to play in 3A sports to begin with–so our numbers are low. Plus, some of the most committed neighborhood football players opt for private schools and football powerhouses. Football numbers are a long shot at WSHS.I was pretty impressed by the way Coach Fennell came out to support other teams and support strength training. It seemed that he was truly trying to build an outstanding football culture at WS. Good luck in the future, coach.

  • Westsider June 21, 2018 (1:28 am)

    Are we measuring exemplary cultures on number of participants or competitiveness? Also, did any other sport coaches invest in strength training and football as Fennell did to strength training and other sports?Also, isn’t the replacement coach a coach that Fennell hired to be on staff? Did the AD find him or was he referenced to the AD from within?As a supporter, where are the numbers now? 20? Did Fennell cause the dwindling numbers? I find it hard to believe that one man’s presence produced a football program’s roster to be 17. Does anyone else take any blame in this? What sort of support was given to Fennell?

    • WSHS sports fan June 21, 2018 (8:29 am)

      Regardless of choices made by coaches and administrators, parents and players are (maybe wisely) moving away from football. Do we have to “blame” somebody for these choices? https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/high-school-football-players-face-bigger-concussion-risk/

      • Westsider June 21, 2018 (10:26 am)

        Concussions may occur other sports as well. If this is an excuse for kids on west seattle hs campus to choose not to play says a lot about the culture in which these kids live. Not many other schools in the city seem to have this overall issue. 

        • WSHS sports fan June 21, 2018 (11:42 am)

          It says players and families are deciding that the risks of football are not worth it. It’s bigger than “pansy” parents who don’t want to subject their kids to brain injuries. (Which seems like a reasonable “excuse” to me.) Specialization of HS sports also plays a role. A football injury (eg broken leg) is a pretty big hit for players whose primary sport is not football. My kid and many of his friends probably would have turned out for football 10 years ago, but not now. And it’s not because of the coach or the AD or the practice jerseys. This situation is not unique to WS, but it is more pronounced because our enrollment is lower than other METRO schools. http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2017/10/06/schools-disbanding-football-teams-as-participation-declines.html

  • WSHS Alum June 22, 2018 (3:55 pm)

    West Seattle Blog

    Some very good comments. JR especially. 

    As a current wshs parent and having kids that played multiple sports at wshs I can tell you the comments about the AD being in over his head and Vance not paying attention to athletics couldn’t be more false. I also know that Mrs Medsker was not a fan or a real supporter of high school sports and that caused problems they have had to overcome.
    The system that all high school sports have to work within is broken and every school deals with funding issues and roadblocks and it goes way beyond just sports. 

    The fact the football coach quit after 1 season is unfortunate. There are two sides to every story but when things got tough or if there were disagreements with the schools administration he chose to resign instead of sticking it out or working through the issues and continuing to coach the football players at wshs.

    To the comments about changing the culture of the program. I do not personally know Coach Fennell but I do have firsthand knowledge that numerous parents who were at Hiawatha with their children were coming into the community center to complain about the use of foul language (F-bombs especially) during the football practices. There was also an incident with a scheduling / dbl booking the use of Hiawatha with another non wshs team and heard from the community center staff the football coach used every 4 letter word in the book with the other teams coach when they were trying to figure out a resolution. In looking at the football coaches credentials  and supposedly being all about working with and the development of youths why does the use of the f-word or other 4 letter words have to be so prevelant or used at all? I have coached many youth teams and never had to use the f-word to get my point across. In fact and I’m sure I am not alone but the use of foul language when coaching or dealing with kids or adults does nothing but a create a negative tone and atmosphere and does more harm than good. 

    I read his resignation letter and have to believe such a dramatic decrease in the turnout of players just might be a reflection of the atmosphere being developed by the use of negative language and negative coaching tactics and probably caused some kids to not want to play on the team. And as a youth coach I know all to well the issues around dealing with parents. I get football is a tough and physical sport but there are better ways to build toughness in young adults that don’t involve cussing or the use of physical activities as punishment. Again two sides to every story but a 75% decrease in the number of players turning out is dramatic and just might be more than “unwarranted resistance” in the program but also a disconnect between coaches and some of the players and a change was needed in order to get kids to want to turnout for the team. Some coaching styles work for some and not for others. 

    Coach Fennell should be applauded for all the time he put in to fund raising and getting the players physically ready to play football and providing what sounded like a nice end of season banquet. The fact still remains he decided to resign rather than continue at WSHS

    WSHS has always struggled to field a football team We have cometitive years and then not so competitive years. Hats off to the AD for getting another coach hired so quickly and rallying the players which hopefully will lead to more kids turning out.

    Good luck to the new staff.

    • Westsider June 22, 2018 (10:47 pm)

      I have been around West Seattle sport since the days of Coach Lara when he had the most successful football team in recent history with Aaron Grymes and Tj Lee. There have been coaches every year that use profanity during practice and games. One must understand the message behind the words not the tone of the words. Furthermore, I do not ever recall hearing about so many complaints about FennelI’s predecessors and their language. What is the reason why? Is it because he is African American?Also, if we check into the background of Fennell himself, and truly exam the state in which the program existed as he took and it over regarding talent on the roster, financial resources, and overall school and community spirit surrounding the program, I would say Fennell did a very good job. Knowing individuals that were on his coaching staff, Fennell spent every day fighting battles for the program. At some point, one must stop banging their head against the wall. Last, from what I hear, Coach Fennell only asked the players to do what should be expected of the players…go to class, be on time for class and practice, and give 100% focus and effort during practice, class, and games. And I have heard that come out of his mouth personally on the same Hiawatha field that so many people claim to hear him use 4 letter words. I think our community needs to stop judging Fennell for how he looks and what they interpret from what they hear and actually evaluate him on his effect on the kids. I have encountered several kids who speak highly of him and his dedication the holistic growth of not just football players but all students he crosses paths with. Perhaps we as west seattle should have stuck with him rather than saying he should have stuck it out and fought through issues. 

      • WSHS Alum June 23, 2018 (1:47 am)

        It has nothing to do with him being African American or how he looks. Its a shame that people still bring up race. The message is lost if it is surrounded by f this and f that. Those are negative words that create a negative tone. 2 negatives only make a positive in math. If you looked up howlistic growth in the dictionary cuss words would not be in the definition. There are a lot of high school coaches out there banging their heads against the wall that still wake up the next day and go to practice. Hopefully Coach Fennell finds another opportunity.We need to move on and support the new coach, the staff and have a football team we can be proud of.

        • Westsider June 27, 2018 (9:57 pm)

          Unfortunately, the situation surrounding Fennell is a race issue. First, from my observations, Fennell used one curse word (bull$&!%) and it usually was said when poor effort was being displayed at practice. If anyone truly observed Fennell, he seems to be pretty calculated. He communicated in various ways, he laughed, joked, yelled, gave the silent treatment. One thing I do know, he always had his players backs! I witnessed an altercation with a bystander at Hiawatha in which Fennell sternly yet professionally addressed the bystander. I have also watched him flip his lid during a game when his QB got cheap shotted. Secondly, why else would the community, school, and parents not support him? He has more practical experience (playing and coaching on all levels as an athlete) and most educational background of anyone I’ve seen coach HS football (Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD). Now, could anyone tell me that his experience would not have been different if he were white? 

  • WSHS Parent June 25, 2018 (10:45 pm)

    As a WSHS parent i have be truly disgusted with the favoritism, politics and racial basis that still seems to exist at WSHS athletics. They are still living in the 60’s with the “good ole boy” mentality. Coach Fenell was a amazing coach that had the kids best interest at heart, as with another coach we lost last year seemly for the same reason, baseball coach Romell was also a tremendous assest to our community that our administration did not do anything to keep. The administration needs to take a good hard look at what is going on and themselves get involved and ask themselves if this is the image they want our school to protray. I know i am absolutely disgusted and embarrassed, by it and something needs to change NOW, or us as parents need to step up and demand a change and stop hiding, because we are afraid if we spesk up our kids wont play.

    • WSHS SPORTS FAN June 26, 2018 (12:49 am)

      Great insight, to what I see happening as well. I watch several games a year @ WS High and I also feel something isn’t right. I see fewer fans at sporting events every year. Football is a tough sport and lots of parents are against subjecting their children to potential concussions, I get it.  I see lots of potential athletes wondering if the rewards are worth the risk. I see players playing JV baseball who are Much Better than the Varsity players! I think that there are many young men just sitting idle, that are super athletes and could contribute in a positive manner. The coaches need to open there eyes and quit being so blind!!!!

  • WSHS SPORTS FAN June 26, 2018 (12:35 am)

    Wow, this is terrible for the program. Here’s a coach who comes to West Seattle to right a program that’s gone wrong. Coach Fennell was a coach who took time to seek out kids to play football. This hasn’t been the case for a long time. He was very approachable and genuinely loved what he thought he could bring to the program. He told me that he faced a ton of resistance from the administration as well as other coaches. I’ve seen first hand where players at WSHS didn’t play and we’re overlooked. This is a discrase, as some if these kids were heads and shoulders better players. No wonder getting kids out on the field is so tough. I know he had a couple of fantastic young men ready to buy into the program. He was upbeat about them, telling me they had a great chance to be seen by D1 colleges. Now this,  I understand “the Good ole boy” theory and who scratches who’s back sons play. Give me a break! I challenge the administration and coaches in ALL sports to get it right next year! Play your best players and forget the politics! If this happens, WSHS will once again, be a top notch program and coaches will seek WSHS out and be happy to jump on board. Loosing him, should NEVER have happened! I wish Coach Fennell the very best in his future endeavors.   

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