Luther Riley, who led the Columbus High School boys basketball team to its first state championship this year, will not return to coach the Falcons.
The Columbus Municipal School District board voted Wednesday to void a contract Riley had been offered for the 2016-2017 school year.
Riley had received the contract a little more than a month ago. He told The Dispatch he was waiting to sign it until he could meet with CMSD Superintendent Philip Hickman and discuss the possibility of a pay raise, as well as incentives for him and three assistant coaches. Riley claimed Hickman would not meet with him.
Hickman told The Dispatch this morning that he told Riley the appropriate chain of command was for the coach to first meet with his athletic director and principal. Hickman also said the three assistant coaches have signed their contracts.
Mississippi law requires school district employees return signed contracts within 10 days or they are voided.
“My administration team made several attempts and extended the deadline and they still never received a contract,” Hickman said.
On Wednesday, the CMSD board voted to formally void the contract that had been offered. School board members Angela Verdell, Currie Fisher and Jason Spears voted to do so. Board member Frederick Sparks voted against doing so. Board member Josie Shumake was not in attendance.
Riley made $54,930 during the 2015-2016 school year. Approximately $9,400 of that was a coaching supplement, while the rest was salary.
The Dispatch was unable to determine what Riley’s contract for 2016-2017 offered, though teachers typically receive a $1,100 annual bump for gaining another year of experience.
Pay scales, Hickman said, are set by the school board and cannot be adjusted for one employee.
Riley was conducting a basketball camp for children at Mississippi University for Women on Wednesday. While there, he received a text message from a local reporter informing him of the school board’s decision.
“To say I was surprised would be an understatement,” the coach said.
In his one season, Riley led Columbus to a 27-5 overall record and the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A state championship. Last month, Riley was chosen Boys’ Basketball Large Schools Coach of the Year by The Dispatch. It was the first state championship in football, basketball or baseball in the history of Columbus High School.
“I really didn’t know this was how they conducted business here,” Riley said. “You come here and they had never had success and then you had success. You won games. You won the state championship. A lot of people would get excited by that. A lot of people would be motivated to move forward and make this program something great. Here, they looked the other way.”
Riley came to Columbus after a three-year stint as head coach at Alcorn State University. Prior to making the jump to the collegiate ranks, Riley won five state championships at Jackson Provine High School.
“We won games,” Riley said of his one season in Columbus. “The players worked hard in the classroom. The players went into the community and did lots of projects. The players made an impact. We helped them win on the court, succeed in the classroom and sign to play on the next level. It’s pretty amazing that that wasn’t enough.”
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