In a glass case outside his office at Crete-Monee High School, athletic director Gene Cahan always displayed newspaper articles that highlighted the school’s athletes.
That habit — this time involving newspaper photos of star football player Laquon Treadwell — cost Cahan his position as athletic director this week, a source said.
“I got a raw deal. I devoted my life to kids and will continue to do that. It’s disappointing, not embarrassing,” Cahan said. “The reaction [from people at the board meeting] proved to me that people appreciate what I’ve done. That much was evident. And I will continue to work for those people.”
In a meeting that lasted into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the Crete-Monee School District 201U Board voted 3 to 2 to reassign Cahan, a district employee for 29 years and the athletic director for the past eight years.
Cahan will be reassigned as a math teacher beginning with the 2013-14 school year, Supt. John Rodgers said. He would not comment on whether Cahan’s salary would be cut. Cahan will remain as the school’s head baseball coach.
School officials declined to explain the matter, saying it was a personnel issue, but Rodgers said what prompted the reassignment was “definitely not a criminal act.”
A source said an article and photo from another newspaper of Treadwell was posted outside Cahan’s office. Treadwell, who will attend Mississippi in the fall, was the 2012 SouthtownStar Football Player of the Year and the No. 1-rated high school wide receiver in the country.
The article and photos were removed after the athletic secretary notified Cahan that Treadwell had stopped by and asked them to be removed, according to the source. One photo showed Treadwell holding some cash in his hand, while another image was of two girls kissing Treadwell on each cheek.
While Rodgers declined to specify why Cahan was reassigned, Rodgers said Cahan was given “due process” and was allowed to address the board before they voted. Several other people also spoke out in support of Cahan, Rodgers said.
Kim Sanders, Nakia Hall and Thomas Morgan voted to reassign Cahan. Board President Tom Hysell and Maurice Brown voted against it. Board member Mary Stockton attended the meeting but left before the vote sometime after 2 a.m., Rodgers said.
Board member Nancy Colletti was absent.
Sanders said she could not discuss personnel issues. Morgan, Hysell and Brown did not return messages, and Hall could not be reached for comment.
Cahan also has been the head baseball coach for 26 years and will remain in that position.
Treadwell could not be reached for comment.
Colleagues voiced support for Cahan.
“Gene has done a great job,” said Jerry Verde, who led Crete-Monee to the Class 6A football state championship in November before resigning to take the same job at Marian Catholic. “He doesn’t deserve this. He’s been instrumental in the football program’s success. He’s always been supportive and always trying to get things done. Anything I ever asked for, he got it done.
“He’s a tireless worker. He practically lives at the school. It’s impossible to replace Gene with one person with all the things he does and time he spends at school,” Verde said.
Rodgers said the job will be posted. The board’s personnel committee will establish a time frame, he said.
“Gene was a very good athletic director,” Rich South athletic director Mark Hopman said. “He was easy to work with, efficient and put the interest of the kids always first.
“Look at how the athletic program at Crete has grown and the success they’ve had. Gene was at the heart of that. It’s very disappointing to see the board react like this. He’s a really caring, nice person.”