Kimball High’s football team played its first game of the spring 2021 season on Friday without its coach of 3 years, who had been fired Friday morning.
Mike Kuhnlenz was set to begin his fourth year leading the Jaguars, and on Friday the team was set to open against the Manteca Buffaloes, the defending Valley Oak League co-champions and defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 champions.
“They told me I was terminated on Friday,” Kuhnlenz said. “I asked why and they told me that they didn’t have to give me a reason.”
Coaches in Tracy Unified School District work on per-season contracts, which can be renewed from year to year unless a coach opts to not return, and the district also has the option to not renew a coach’s contract. In this case Kuhnlenz had led the Kimball High football team through pre-season workouts, practices and a three-team scrimmage at Tracy High in preparation for a five-game season only to learn before the first game that he had been fired.
He said that Kimball principal Ben Keller called him on Friday morning with the news, and told him to reach out to the district’s human resources department for further explanation. Kuhnlenz said that the human resources department did not give him a reason for his termination.
He then set up a Zoom meeting with his team that afternoon to tell them that he would not be with them on Friday. After the game Kuhnlenz was impressed with how the Jaguars competed against Manteca, taking a 44-38 loss against a traditional VOL powerhouse.
“I saw the score and I was so proud of them,” he said. “They really bought in and I’m so fortunate to have coached so many young men who did what they were asked and so much more.”
The last time the Jaguars played the Buffaloes in the fall of 2019, the last full season of football prior to COVID-19 restrictions, it was an 84-20 win for Manteca. By the end of the season the Jaguars were 5-6, one of only three Kimball football teams since the school fielded its first varsity team in 2010 to go 5-5 during the regular season, and it was the first Kimball football team to make playoffs.
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