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West Valley football program being investigated by school board for hazing allegations

The Anderson Union High School District is looking into allegations of hazing within the West Valley football program. Greg Grandell (center) is the third-winningest coach in Northern Section history with 195 wins. (Photo by Mike Daly / Shasta County Sports)

Amid allegations of serial hazing on the West Valley football team, Anderson Union High School District Superintendent Victor Hopper said Friday that head coach Greg Grandell and his staff will be afforded “due process” as separate investigations by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office and a district-spurred query play out.

We’re not going to run on a witch hunt. These are serious allegations and we’re cooperating fully with the sheriff’s office,” the superintendent said. “If they turn out to be true, then we will follow the law.”

That could include, he said, termination of Grandell and his staff as the football is set to begin practicing for its upcoming season in roughly three weeks.

Four separate closed session action items about “pending litigation,” and one item concerning “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Reassignment/Nonreelect” are on the district’s Board of Trustee’s agenda on Tuesday.  A special board meeting held last Tuesday, reportedly to deal with the same issues, was held but the board said they didn’t have any reportable action from that closed session.

Allegations of hazing at the Cottonwood campus have swirled in the football community this fall and include players boxing for a locker spot and a birthday ritual involving a “birthday stick.”

Grandell, who has coached at West Valley since 1993, is No. 3 on the Northern Section’s all-time winningest football coach list with 195 wins. He sits 24 victories behind all-time leader Bob Reid of Anderson.

Previous calls to Grandell weren’t returned, but he sent a text message saying “My staff had not been let go. … If me and my staff ‘choose’ to ever step aside it will be a decision we make together.”

He and long-time assistant Jim Vert said none of the staff was present during any of the alleged hazing incidents.

“I heard about it (the investigation) two weeks ago and I got defensive,” Vert told Shasta County Sports on Nov. 4. “We don’t do things like that at West Valley.”

Hopper said the hazing issue, as well as the future employment of Grandell and staff, will be among the topics during closed session at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“When you have a coach that’s given more than 30 years, you want to make sure you don’t make rash decisions based on allegations,” Hopper said. He added Grandell and his staff, all walk-on coaches, are not afforded the union protection a credentialed teacher would receive, but that due diligence is paramount.

“We’ve also hired an independent investigator, but it has been difficult as the alleged victims have hired lawyers and refused to cooperate (on counsel’s advice),” he said.

The superintendent added that time was a factor in determining the validity of the allegations and the outcome of the investigation as football practices are slated to begin in California on Dec. 14.

“I made it clear to the board that we need to know what we’re going to do,” he said assuming COVID-19 would not disrupt the impending football season.

Vert, Grandell’s long-time assistant, told Shasta County Sports on Nov. 4 that “nothing has happened yet (about the varsity staff being terminated), but it seems to be a foregone conclusion.”

If Grandell’s tenure at West Valley ends, he would leave with 195 wins, three behind East Nicolaus’ Geoff Wahl for second-all time in the section. Anderson’s Bob Reid holds the mark with 219 victories. Grandell’s teams were 195-116 from 1993-2019 and he won three Northern Section titles, the last in 2018 when the Eagles made it to a NorCal Regional Bowl. Grandell ranks fourth among games coached in Northern Section history.

Aaron Williams has been involved in the North State sports scene for nearly two decades. He spent eight years as the Sports Editor for the local newspaper and another four more as the voice of high school football on the radio. Williams has coached various sports at the high school level over the past decade, most recently at Shasta High, and is also the public address announcer for the Shasta College football and basketball teams.

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