Absence of head coach leaves track and field program ‘screwed’


Photo Courtesy of Bill Nunn

Brianna Nunn (center) stands with teammates at the track and field Coast Conference Championship at Hartnell College on April 29. Individuals from the team taped over “De Anza” on their jerseys in protest of the athletics department’s lack of support and communication after Head Coach Nick Mattis was placed on administrative leave.

Autumn Alvarez

Head Track Coach and Assistant Athletics Director Nick Mattis, last seen by the track and field team at a scheduled meet on April 15, has been put on administrative paid leave.

Track and field athletes said that the athletics department encouraged them to keep pushing through the season, but without their head coach’s support and any knowledge of his whereabouts, the team has been left hanging.

Elliot Daniels, 18, nursing major, said he and his team were left in the dark about their coach. 

“We literally showed up to practice one day, and they said, ‘Yeah, Mattis isn’t here,’” Daniels said.

Maezie Castillo, 20, biology major, added that “(the administration in the athletics department) said they didn’t have a time frame for how long he would be gone.”

Mattis’ time at De Anza spans over 20 years. He not only coaches, but as one of his students, Brianna Nunn, puts it, “overheads everything” from cleaning jerseys and coordinating rides to scouting the best schools for his transfer students.

Nunn, a 21-year-old economics major, said that her head coach’s absence has put pressure on the team, assistant coaches and interim coach Sam Boulanger, who has since taken on Mattis’ duties. Nunn said Boulanger’s responsibilities should have been taken on by Athletics Dean Eric Mendoza or Director of Athletics Ron Hannon instead.

“Technically, Ron and Eric, as our assistant director and dean, are supposed to take over these responsibilities while Mattis is gone,” Nunn said. “They didn’t do anything. They put everything on (Boulanger) and she had to figure it out herself. (Mendoza and Hannon) came to one meet each and then they had nothing to do with us.”

In response to the lack of support and communication from the heads of the athletics departments, some members of the team taped over the words “De Anza” on their jersey in protest at the Coast Conference Championship, a meet that Mattis planned but could not attend. The movement of Mattis’ pre-scheduled meet from De Anza to Hartnell College directly impacted athletes’ schedules and academic work.

“A lot of people got screwed (when) everything got moved,” Nunn said. “(De Anza athletes won) medals for first and fifth place and Ron was there to present the medals. Maezie brought up the idea to tape our jerseys when we went up there as a silent, very peaceful protest.”

Both Nunn and Castillo said Hannon reacted to the protest by “attempting to take away the Norcal (meets in May).”

Castillo defended her participation in the protest and said the team members were allowed to tape their jerseys.

“In competition, we wore our uniforms,” she said. “It was just that when we got to the podium, we decided not to represent De Anza.”

Mendoza did not respond to three attempts by La Voz reporters to schedule an interview by email. Hannon did not respond to one attempt by email and chose not to comment when asked about these allegations at the Student Athlete Awards Ceremony.

Mattis also did not respond to two attempts by La Voz to contact him by email and denied to comment.

Daniels explained that a college with a missing head coach hurts the reputation of track and field athletes by making it more difficult to appeal to potential recruiters from four-year universities.

“It makes our school look bad to say that our coach is gone,” Daniels said. “Even if we reach out and advocate for ourselves to get recruited, they’ll see that it doesn’t look good. Anything that makes the school look bad is going to hurt our chances of getting recruited.” 

Nunn and Castillo cited a potential incident that could have gotten Mattis placed on leave. Castillo explained that during a home meet, an athlete, whose identity will remain anonymous, missed the meet and was later found to be practicing football while it was going on.  

“(The athlete) said they didn’t think (they) were eligible to play track and didn’t know that (they) were supposed to be on the field that day competing for Mattis,” Castillo said. “Instead, (the athlete) was on the field practicing football.”

Castillo said Mattis had a “little snap” when confronting the athlete.

“Mattis was told the player was sick through someone else,” she said. 

Daniels said that this incident does not warrant his coach’s absence. 

“Mattis is passionate about his job and any of the other sports coaches yell in the same way,” he said. “Other coaches say atrocious things.”

Daniels said Mattis’ absence determined the remainder of the season. Daniels said he and other teammates even considered transferring to another school, but could not do so because they would become “ineligible for an entire season” if found communicating with other community college coaches.

“We’re stuck here, whether we like it or not, with a program that is being completely screwed over,” he said.

Nunn said that the administration in the athletics department is neglecting the team.

“(They’re) sweeping everything under the rug and making us bite our tongue,” she said. “Their jobs entail that they take over Mattis’ duties if we don’t have a head coach.” 

Daniels said the team deserves better from the administration.

“The whole atmosphere completely changed this season,” Daniels said. “When (Mattis) was there he was a friend to us and he never acted like he was superior to us. He earned our respect.”

Without Mattis, some track and field members said their individual futures and that of the team are still left unresolved.

“They’re screwing with people’s livelihoods and screwing with people’s futures,” Nunn said. “They don’t care.”