The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Frustrated over the absence of three track and field coaches, athletes and coaches speak up to the Chancellor

Ann Penalosa
Track and field students and coaches meet up with Chancellor Lee Lambert to talk about the lack of communication over the firing and suspension of three coaches on Sept. 27 at room L47.

More than 45 track and field athletes and coaches showed up to a meeting with FHDA Chancellor Lee Lambert on Sept. 27 in an attempt to resolve administrators’ lack of communication regarding three coaches who were placed on administrative leave or fired last spring quarter.

Following head track coach and assistant athletics director Nick Mattis being placed on administrative paid leave April 15, former interim head coach Sam Boulanger who took over Mattis’ duties and former assistant coach Dylan Duvio were both fired at the end of the 2023 season.

Maya Lew, 20, recent De Anza College graduate and former track and field athlete, said she was involved during the season when Mattis was pulled out and witnessed what happened between him and a student athlete—whose information is confidential for the purpose of an ongoing investigation.

Lew said the student lied and accused Mattis of instigating a fight while Lew and other track and field athletes said they witnessed the whole interaction and there was no inappropriate or harsh behavior from Mattis.

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“In our group chat, all of us talked about how disrespectful (the anonymous student’s) behavior was, to which he responded ‘I’m just a bad person, guys’. Then later he sent a voice chat of him screaming and saying that the coach did a bunch of stuff,” Lew said. “However, none of us saw what he was accusing (Mattis of). He was lying since he was embarrassed and people were calling him out. A few days later Mattis was randomly pulled out and nobody told us anything.”

Boulanger said she recalled a meeting where Athletic Director Ron Hannon told the assistant coaches that Mattis left but didn’t explain why.

“Ron (Hannon) was the only person I remember having a meeting with,” Boulanger said. “He sat us all down and we asked when Mattis would be coming back. He said, ‘I don’t have the answer to that right now,’ and we didn’t really get any more information.”

Lambert said that from an administration standpoint, the administrators don’t talk about specific personnel matters while an investigation is in progress, but they should engage and acknowledge the incident with expectations, solutions and regular communication.

Assistant coach Alyx Tripp said the biggest problem was that there was no communication regardless of how many times the team tried to reach out.

“Multiple students reached out to Ron (Hannon), to Eric (Mendoza), to Lloyd (Holmes, De Anza College President). Multiple times, not one response,” Tripp said. “So that alone was very hard to navigate.”

In response to the lack of administrative action, some members of the team taped over the words “De Anza” on their jerseys when standing on the CCCAA Coast Conference Championship podium because they “decided not to represent De Anza.”

Tripp said that Hannon, who was in attendance, threatened those students’ ability to attend following meets.

“(Hannon) was giving out medals (at the conference) and actually threatened a few of the athletes that he wouldn’t allow them to go to the Northern California Championship or state because of that,” Tripp said. “That’s not right.”

The team tried to bring up the situation again at the Student Athlete Awards Ceremony on June 15; however, whenever they mentioned Mattis, their speech was intentionally censored. According to a former La Voz article, Eric Mendoza, Dean of Physical Education and Athletics, said the censored video of the ceremony was taken down to edit the pre-show portion and add graphics and logos. However, the video is still nowhere to be found on the De Anza College Athletics website.

Lydia Zertuche, 19, current Foothill student and former De Anza cross country and track and field athlete, said she was one of the athletes that got censored at the ceremony but she was scared to speak up against the administrators in fear of her continued education at the selective Foothill College dental hygiene program being put to a stop.

“I wanted to talk about (Mattis). I wanted to go into more things and be an advocate for my coach. But I was so scared of what (Hannon and Mendoza) were doing. Because, in my mind, all they had to do was pick up the phone, call Foothill and say, ‘You don’t want this person to (continue her education) do that’. And at that point, everything was already done,” Zertuche said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m scared to voice my opinion.”

Lew said Mattis’ absence affected everyone.

Maya Lew, 20, a recent De Anza College graduate and former track and field athlete, talks about her experience after coach Mattis left on Sept. 27 at room L47. (Ann Penalosa)

“At the conference, there was so much to handle but not enough people with experience like Mattis and this caused me to miss an event which wasn’t the fault of the coaches who were there, it was because we weren’t given the resources to function the same after Mattis wasn’t there,” Lew said. “There were other instances of people messing up events like Priscilla (Cadena, former track and field athlete) running one less lap which took her qualifications away from running at state. This never would have happened if the (head) coach was there.”

Jerry Koch, associated head coach of men’s and women’s swimming, said he thinks the leading issue was Hannon and Mendoza’s failure to lead the team after the Mattis left without any navigation.

“Basically it’s their (Eric and Ron’s) responsibility to take care of the team no matter what needs to be figured out. But they were left to fend for themselves, treading water as best they could,” Koch said. “(The season) was by all outside viewings successful. But from the inside, it was quite crazy. With everything going on, there were a number of things that weren’t taken care of.”

Koch said Mattis’s absence took students’ opportunities to get scouted by four year universities and get scholarships, because Mattis handled those matters.

“In terms of scholarships and having their futures taken care of, that was all just kind of left ignored and fell by the wayside,” Koch said. “There were several athletes that did not get to talk to coaches from four year schools because the coaches were emailing coach Mattis.”

After Mattis was put on administrative leave, Boulanger took over his duties. However, Boulanger was also fired near the end of the season. Mattis said the team, coaches and even Boulanger still don’t know why she was fired without her knowledge.

“When I told Sam she was fired, she thought she was still employed. I’m like ‘I just got told that you can’t come back,’ and she was working for free for quite a while,” Mattis said. “We still have no idea in the first place why Sam was let go other than it seems like she was retaliated against.”

Mattis said that Boulanger was allowed to come back but she chose to pursue other opportunities. Boulanger said she didn’t feel like she had the financial comfort and mental support to come back to De Anza.

“I went to De Anza as a student athlete with coach Mattis years ago and then was able to come back as a new coach, and to have that kind of mentor feels like family to me. It’s just really sad that, (in the perspective of) an alumni and as a human being, you (the administrator) shouldn’t treat people like that,” Boulanger said. “It’s frustrating that the way they allow young people to succeed was so hard to choose, ‘(I wonder) what should I do (with my career), (but if I left) there’s (still) these athletes who are involved’. It was not fair, having to choose something shouldn’t be happening in the first place.”

Duvio was also fired after the season ended.

Lew recalled the situation when competing at the CCCAA California State Championship in May, her shoulder was severely injured and she said she did not have the adequate support she needed from the trainer who was supposed to be there when she needed. Because of this, Duvio was openly frustrated with the trainer, who later, reportedly lied about the interaction and said Duvio threatened her. Lew said the college made a big mistake for firing Duvio.

“I have never felt threatened or mistreated by him,” Lew said. “Sure, he can be intense, but I have never met a good coach that isn’t.”

Mattis said De Anza employees are fired on a three strike system, and he was told one of Duvio’s strikes was that he had instigated the same incident Mattis was placed on leave for.

“All my paperwork says I was the aggressor, and I (allegedly) instigated it,” Mattis said. “So we both, 30 minutes apart from each other, (talked with) Eric Mendoza, who wrote the same record for both of us. So (I wonder) how was I suspended for three and a half months if (Duvio) was the instigator? And why was (Duvio) fired if I was the instigator? It doesn’t make sense.”

Another factor is that Duvio has epilepsy and Mattis said one side effect of his medication is that “he is a little short tempered and grumpy.” Mattis said when he asked administration why Duvio was fired, all they told him was Duvio “had a bad attitude.”

“It’s part of his disability,” Mattis said. “I feel like he’s been fired because of his disability, we’re all kind of wondering.”

Lambert said he apologized for everything that had happened.

Chancellor Lee Lambert apologizes to track and field students and coaches for a lack of communication amongst administrators over firing or putting coaches on administrative leave on Sept. 27 in room L47. (Ann Penalosa)

“At this point, I realize that a lot has already happened and I can’t just make it alright anymore, because so much has already happened,” Lambert said. “Whatever I can do going forward, I want to do the best, I want to get my administration to start being more respectful and managing the situation in a more fair, consistent way.”

Tripp said she felt grateful for having a chance to raise her concerns about the administration censoring the team’s speeches and dismissing coaches to the chancellor.

“Thank you for being here and thank you for speaking with us. There’s a lot I can say, a lot of grievances I can air out, but, first I want to say thank you,” Tripp said. “You’re the first and only administrator to even acknowledge these incidents and especially when (administration) censored them (during the student athlete awards ceremony), still no one has said anything.”

Lambert said he plans on talking to the athletic administrators and Holmes on Oct. 2 to figure out what went wrong and establish communication between administration and the athletes.

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About the Contributors
Lauren Linh Bui
Lauren Linh Bui, Copy Editor
Lauren Linh Bui is a sophomore at De Anza College pursuing journalism. Lauren's ambition as a journalist is to amplify underrepresented voices and use her influence to create social change. She was proud to be the editor-in-chief in fall 2023 and is now enjoying life on her backpacking trip to her homeland, Vietnam. She is contributing to La Voz this quarter as a Copy Editor. She is dedicated to increasing the paper’s visibility and continuing to uphold the La Voz mission as the voice of the De Anza serving community.
Leila Salam
Leila Salam, Copy Editor
Leila is a second year political science major who loves writing, food and being outside. She joined La Voz because she is passionate about social justice and student journalism's power to spread truth.
Ann Penalosa
Ann Penalosa, Co-Managing Editor
a.k.a. mtndewkid, gabunomigrl.

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