Freedom principal says an incident Friday “required my action.” Former coach Kevin Hartwig to help lead Oakley school for remainder of the season.
OAKLEY – Freedom High football coach Zachary Sims spoke out on Tuesday, one day after being placed on administrative leave for the rest of the season following an incident that occurred following a game last Friday.
“Both the decision and its timing are very concerning and surprising,” Sims wrote to the Bay Area News Group in a statement. “The decision demonstrates a clear lack of judgment and understanding, as it came just a day after I had reached out to Principal Steve Amaro regarding safety concerns on campus, the latest in a series of serious safety incidents that have happened at Freedom in the past 12 months.”
Sims stated in a follow-up response to this news organization that the latest incident occurred after Freedom’s 41-0 loss at home to rival Liberty on Friday night.
“I was approached personally by a belligerent person after the game on the field,” Sims stated. “I made multiple attempts to deescalate the individual and felt my safety was at risk the whole time as this is not the first time this has happened, and there was nobody present to help.”
Amaro described the school’s action as a personnel matter and declined to elaborate on why Sims will no longer lead the Oakley school in multiple interviews. Sims is still employed at Freedom.
“We hold our students and adults accountable for what they do over the course of being employed or a part of a school,” Amaro said over the phone with the Bay Area News Group. “There were a number of instances where I was concerned, and there was one particular thing that came to light on Friday that required my action.”
The Brentwood Press broke the news that the coach had been placed on administrative leave.
Amaro said he did not see the incident on the field on Friday, but he did walk past Sims that night on his way to the parking lot after the game.
The principal stated that the coach did not express any concerns at the time, nor had Sims discussed previous encounters at other games this season.
“He passed me with his wife in the parking lot,” said Amaro. “I was the last person to leave, and principals are usually the last person to leave because I had to wait for the last student to get picked up.”
Sims claims he emailed Amaro about the incident on Sunday and claims he did nothing wrong.
“I’ve been advised to not get too far into the details,” Sims said. “But I go home with my wife after games and she wasn’t feeling well so after the incident we were just trying to get home.”
Since Sims took over in 2021, the Falcons are 6-19. Amaro stated that the decision to fire the coach had nothing to do with on-field performance.
“I don’t care if our kids win a game,” said Amaro. “What I want is for them to have a memorable experience where they’re going to learn character (lessons) that will propel them into the future.”
For the remainder of the season, girls flag football coach Kevin Hartwig will share coaching duties with Scott Sbranti on the tackle football team.
Hartwig coached the Freedom tackle football team for 16 years before retiring in 2017. In 2016, he led the Falcons to NorCal Division I-AA and NCS Open Division championship games, as well as the NCS Division I championship game a year later.
“I’m very thankful that they’re coming back to help our kids, but that had no bearing on whether or not I would have made that determination,” Amaro stated. “I would have done this regardless.”
Sims’ job as a teacher at the school, according to Amaro, is not in jeopardy.