HELENA — Carroll College athletic director Charlie Gross acted quickly when news came out about assistant football coach Jay Staggs being investigated by former employer Idaho State for inappropriate texts to a football player he helped coach.
Gross used the situation as an opportunity to display the Saints run a clean program that's transparent. And to show that he wants the right people working with the athletes.
It took only a brief review from when news broke Tuesday about Staggs before the Saints announced later that night he was not starting employment at Carroll College under first-year coach Troy Purcell.
“We needed to make a statement for what Carroll stands for, in what we want and the direction we are moving in,” Gross said Wednesday. “And to be able to do that quickly, and before there would be any other impact on our football program and Carroll, it was an easy decision to make.”
Staggs came to the athletic department after he was hired and warned Gross that a report was coming out soon. Gross decided to wait until the information came out before deciding what to do.
Tuesday afternoon the Idaho State Journal reported Staggs was part of investigation where a player accused him of the inappropriate texts, after coach Rob Phenicie hammer punched the player on the shoulder pads during halftime of a game.
“At that point, you make decisions on what you know,” Gross said. “He and Carroll came to an agreement that he wouldn’t start employment here.”
The situation was a surprise to Gross as he and Purcell just went through the hiring process with Staggs.
“When you go through search process and hiring process, you vet things,” Gross said. “You want information to come out. … Things come out in the hiring process. The world of sports is such a public venue. It’s interesting how things come out.”
Gross is thankful this information revealed now early in the offseason, and not in the middle of season when it can become a distraction.
There’s still plenty of time to find a replacement for Staggs, Gross said. Purcell remains busy finalizing his staff, recruiting athletes and preparing for spring football.
“It’s very unfortunately, this situation, for Idaho State football,” Gross said. “But we are fortunate we still have time to hire a high-quality candidate that can coach football and represent Carroll well.”