Notre Dame Prep head football coach suspended by school, parents demand answers

Notre Dame Coach Mark Nolan will oversee two football camps planned in January at Notre Dame Prep.

Former Notre Dame Football Coach Mark Nolan.

Notre Dame Prep has suspended head football coach Mark Nolan amidst pressure from parents calling for the removal of both Coach Nolan and school president James Gmelich.

Mr. Gmelich met with parents Tuesday, Oct. 25, night to discuss their frustrations. However, Ryan Fisher, father of junior running back/strong safety Cole Fisher, said during an Oct. 26 phone interview the school suspended Coach Nolan the morning of the meeting.Mr. Fisher also said when parents asked the school for the specifics of the suspension, including what would happen after Friday’s game, the school had no answers.

James Gmelich

James Gmelich

Mr. Gmelich did not return an email or phone call requesting comment as of Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Additionally, he said parents came to Tuesday’s meeting with many questions for Coach Nolan but with the suspension, Coach Nolan did not attend.

Mr. Fisher said Tuesday’s meeting centered on parents asking questions to Mr. Gmelich including why the school had not yet appealed.

“At that moment last night, they had no idea if they were going to appeal or not,” Mr. Fisher said. “They wanted to come to the parent meeting and make a decision after that, which the parents were flabbergasted.”

As of the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 26, Dr. Harold Slemmer, executive director for the Arizona Interscholastic Association, did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Notre Dame Prep has until Thursday, Oct. 27 to file an appeal. If the school does not or does not remove Mr. Gmelich or Coach Nolan, Mr. Fisher said the parents are ready to take action.

He added that several parents have obtained “legal representation” and many are considering leaving NDP.

Mr. Fisher said not only are parents upset over school leadership, but the football players are as well.

Mr. Fisher said Monday, Oct. 24 there were about 25 student-athletes that didn’t attend a football meeting prior to practice and about 12 student-athletes who decided to boycott practice.

“It gives the impression that the coach has lost the team,” Mr. Fisher said. “Or that the players don’t trust the coach, they don’t believe in the system, you can take it however you want.”

Mr. Fisher added that he thinks the student-athletes’ main issue is they don’t get to play in the playoff even though they finished in the top spot of the region, which usually yields an automatic bid.

“The boys feel like they are being punished for actions of Notre Dame Prep leadership,” Mr. Fisher said. “That’s what it boils down to.”

The outcry for Mr. Gmelich’s removal is not a new concept as a petition has been circulating calling for Mr. Gmelich’s and Coach Nolan’s removal. As of the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 26 that petition has a little more than 700 signatures.

Additionally, Attorney Jordan Rose wrote a letter on behalf of parents to the Phoenix Diocese calling for NDP to act immediately, whether that be filing an appeal or removing Mr. Gmelich and Coach Nolan.

Mr. Fisher said this all boils down to the wrong people paying the price for the two violation involving the out-of-season football class and recruiting.

“It’s frustrating and embarrassing that my 16-year-old son has to suffer for the Notre Dame Prep leadership,” Mr. Fisher said.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at or at 623-445-2738

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