Benson: There’s a lesson here
December 15, 2006
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The former standout who helped revive football at his high school remains passionate about the program he felt compelled to walk away from Monday.
It’s not in Travis Benson’s nature to quit. It’s also not in his nature to think of himself first, though, which is why he resigned as Aspen’s head coach, he said.
“The future of the program does not lie with me,” said Benson, who resigned after Superintendent Diana Sirko asked him if he would consider a subordinate role under her husband. “It lies with the kids and the effort they put into it in the future.”
Benson said he resigned because he felt Sirko, Principal Charlie Anastas and Athletic Director Carol Sams put him in an unfair position.
Sirko said Tuesday that she had received complaints about Benson’s coaching ability from parents this fall. That led her to broach the subject of bringing her husband in to serve as a mentor to Benson, which led to a private sit- down among all four.
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Benson said Thursday that he was open to suggestions, and still has things to learn about coaching. What upset him was that Sirko never relayed any of the complaints to him before sitting down with him behind closed doors. He also said Sirko only spoke in generalities about the complaints she received.
“I believe that there were concerns, but as to the exact number of concerns, I never got a clear answer,” he said. “I don’t know the number of parents who complained. … I wish the parents had addressed things to me. Beyond that, I don’t know how overwhelming they were. I don’t know if it was all of them, or five of them, or whether the concerns were voiced in the heat of the moment.” Without a chance to address the concerns before the meeting, Benson said he felt it was out of line for Sirko to ask how he felt taking a temporary subordinate role under her husband.
It’s not that he’s opposed to working with Sirko’s husband, a proven coach, Benson said. He simply had an issue with the proposal of the plan. The discussion felt more like an ultimatum, he said.
“In retrospect, I think there’s a lot of different angles that could have taken place,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for a man who has been involved with kids for 31 years. My issue never was with Mike Sirko, and it still isn’t. What he could have added to this program was phenomenal.
“My concerns were the way it was presented. I addressed those to Carol and Charlie. It was not the proper channel to do it. In my feeling, it wasn’t a discussion. It wasn’t an exchange of ideas. Solutions were given to me without my input.”
In the wake of his resignation, teachers and students have rallied around Benson and questioned Sirko’s tactics.
One community member wrote a letter to The Aspen Times urging Benson’s former players to “stand up and be heard.”
Benson said he wants to meet with his former players sometime soon, although he wants to do it under the right circumstances.
“I think because of the situation, that it’s not something I should go set up,” he said. ” All parties involved have to know when it’s going to take place, and the stuff needs to be out front and open. It can’t be behind closed doors. I don’t want it to be behind anyone’s backs.”
He also hopes his players can learn a lesson from this week’s events. As a coach, Benson said he always preached core values to his players ” values that compelled him to make one of the hardest decisions in his life.
“If I sit back and preach to my kids to have character and selfrespect and to be good citizens, when I’m having to deal with something like this, I have to act on those things, otherwise I’m not teaching the lesson,” he said. “I highly encourage them to be mature about it and to find an answer and move forward.”