Scottsdale Notre Dame fires head football coach amid AIA scandal

A view of Mike Nolan as head football coach for Notre Dame Preparatory in north Scottsdale. (File photo)

A view of Mike Nolan as head football coach for Notre Dame Preparatory in north Scottsdale. (File photo)

Notre Dame Preparatory has fired head football coach Mark Nolan ahead of an Arizona Interscholastic Academy emergency meeting regarding the future of NDP football.

NDP Communication Coordinator Kimberly Haub confirmed the school no longer employs Mr. Nolan, who was originally suspended Tuesday, Oct. 25 for one game. Additionally, Ms. Haub confirmed the school put athletic director Monica Barrett on a one-week unpaid administrative leave.

James Gmelich

James Gmelich

As for NDP School President James Gmelich, Ms. Haub confirmed the school officially reprimanded him and accepted Mr. Gmelich’s offer to donate one week’s pay to charity.

Mr. Gmelich will also no longer be involved with athletics, academics or extracurricular activities. Those duties now fall to school principal Jerry Zander, according to an email the school sent to NDP parents.
Furthermore, the letter states the Diocese of Phoenix will launch an outside investigation of any other potential violations.

When the investigation yields results, Notre Dame Prep claims it will take the appropriate action and correct any further violations in the program, according to the letter. The school will maintain its ban on spring football in 2017.

Once the school announced its plan, Scottsdale Attorney Jordan Rose, who represents a parent in this matter, sent another letter to the AIA pleading the parents’ case for lifting the postseason ban.

“All of these measures are what we sought what we considered to be appropriate, to be cited in a formal appeal, in order for student athletes to be granted the opportunity to have their hard work acknowledged and honored,” Ms. Rose said in the letter.

Additionally, Ms. Rose said in an Oct. 28 phone interview several of her clients are happy with the school’s recent actions.

Ryan Fisher, father of NDP running back/strong safety Cole Fisher, said it’s good to see the right people being punished but he thinks the school should have violated the bylaws from the start.

“NDP has had zero issues/violations with the AIA in 12 years,” Mr. Fisher said in an Oct. 28 email response. “In the last 18 months, we have been found guilty of two and a third is under review. I think that says it all.”

Notre Dame Prep filed for an appeal Wednesday, Oct. 26 against the AIA’s ruling where the governing body put Notre Dame Prep on dual probation for violating AIA bylaws with an out-of-season football class and a recruiting violation.

The school had until Thursday, Oct. 27 to file the appeal and did not immediately file for an appeal until parents of Notre Dame Prep football players started pressuring the school to take action against its leadership.

This pressure included a petition calling for the removal of Mr. Gmelich and Mr. Nolan, a parents meeting with Mr. Gmelich demanding answers on why the school hadn’t filed an appeal yet and a letter from Ms. Rose to the Diocese of Phoenix demanding NDP take action against its leaders.

If the AIA approves the appeal during the Oct. 28 emergency meeting Notre Dame Prep (7–2, 4–0 region) would enter the 5A state playoffs as the top-finisher in the Northeast Valley Region. Usually, the top-finisher gets an automatic berth to the playoffs, which NDP would forfeit if the ban stands.

Not only did parents take action, but so did the student-athletes.

Mr. Fisher said early in the week, several football players skipped team meetings prior to practice and several more walked out on practice.

“It gives the impression that the coach has lost the team,” Mr. Fisher said in an Oct. 26 phone interview. “Or that the players don’t trust the coach, they don’t believe in the system, you can take it however you want.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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