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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – More than a dozen Grissom softball players stood outside their school Tuesday morning with a mission to “Save Coach Morris.”

Members of the team learned Monday night that after one season at the helm of the Tigers, head coach Macie Morris was relieved of her coaching duties.

“She said that she doesn’t really understand why and we didn’t either because we all have her back and she just wants what’s best for us in the end,” said Grissom senior catcher Emily Myers.

According to the players, Morris was notified of the change Thursday. They say she will continue to teach science at Grissom.

But for the girls, the news is heartbreaking. The Tigers finished their first season under Morris with a record of 14-27 and one win away from the state tournament.

“She’s one of the most positive coaches I’ve ever had,” said Myers, “and that was something I was really looking forward to having again this year.”

Morris was also named the “Huntsville All-City Softball Coach” this year by the other district coaches, an honor that is highlighted on the school’s sign along Bailey Cove Road.

Despite this, the program will now look for its fourth head coach in as many seasons.

“It’s hard not having consistency,” said Grissom senior first baseman Kirsten Campbell, “but Coach Morris has brought a lot of stuff to the program.”

The players gathered at the school Tuesday to try to get an explanation from their athletic director.

“We went in there and tried to talk to him today,” said Campbell. “He denied us.”

WHNT News 19 also reached out to Grissom officials for comment. They did not call us back.

WHNT News 19 then contacted the Huntsville City Schools central office. The district’s spokesperson provided this statement:

Huntsville City Schools hires individuals as teachers.  Additional responsibilities, such as a sponsor of a club, organization, or coach, can be added as a stipend or supplement to their primary job as a classroom instructor.   Typically, decisions for those additional duties are made at the school level.  A decision was made for a change in the leadership of the Grissom Softball Team that would be in the best interest of the program.  Impacted personnel are always made aware of the reasons for the change.

The players said they believe the coaching change stems from player evaluations that Morris held earlier this month.

“She was just looking at us and making sure that our skills were where they’re supposed to be and if they weren’t, then she was going to make us work on it and we were going to go to camp,” said Campbell.

In the eyes of the AHSAA, though, the evaluation is still considered a try-out. The AHSAA rules state that softball try-outs can be held only during the first semester of the school year:

Each school is permitted one Evaluation Period per sport during the off-season. All sports except football may have a maximum five days in a consecutive 10-school-day calendar period. The evaluations for spring sports must be held anytime during the first semester. All students may participate in the evaluations.

The AHSAA does not allow summer workouts to be considered mandatory. Officials said the rule is to ensure that every athlete gets a fair shot.

The league considers the offense an administrative violation, which officials said typically results in a $250 fine, but no restrictive probation, such as postseason bans.

WHNT News 19 also learned that Morris reached out to Grissom’s athletic director prior to the evaluation to make sure it was allowed. In the May email Morris wrote:

Coach Beumer,

I just wanted to give you a heads up that softball will be conducting summer evaluations for team camps/play dates during the summer on June 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  These evaluations are not mandatory but are solely for the benefit of the girls and to determine who will participate in summer activities.  We will conduct try-outs that determine each team’s roster in August.  These try-outs will be mandatory to hold a spot on the 2016-2017 roster.

I wanted to make you aware of our schedule and ask if you see any rule violations.  Also,  when conducting said evaluations, what all will be required for the girls to step on the field?  Do they need a physical or would it be okay to have parents just sign a release/waiver form?

Thank you for all that you do!!

Macie

Grissom Athletic Director William Beumer gave a two sentence response: “That looks good to me. They do need a physical.”

Now, without a coach, the Grissom softball players will have to spend their summer waiting until a new one is named.

“It’s been a lot of frustration and not knowing what has been going on,” said Campbell.

“She looks for the best in players and she really brings it out of everybody,” said Myers.