After a week of revelations concerning text messages exchanged between opposing teams’ football coaches in which a former Huntsville High School head football coach, Randy Barnhill, exchanged information about football plays and signals with Elkins’ Head Football Coach Bryan Hutson, the Huntsville School Board accepted Barnhill’s resignation and Elkins School District superintendent recommended a one-week suspension without pay for Hutson.
Barnhill was head football coach until January of this year. Until his resignation, he was the dean of students at Huntsville.
The actions regarding Hutson and Barnhill were taken after it was discovered that Barnhill had been texting with Hutson regarding the football game between Elkins and Huntsville, which took place on Sept. 20, and in which the Elks defeated the Eagles 35-0. The week preceding the game, Barnhill and Hutson had exchanged texts in which Barnhill sent Hutson information about the HHS football players, coaches and descriptions of the HHS football team’s plays and signals.
The text messages between the two showed up on the HHS football team’s iPad beginning the week before the Friday game. The Huntsville School Board met on Monday, Sept. 23, in a special meeting for two and one-half hours, but refused to state the purpose of the closed session as required by the Freedom of Information Act. The school board reassembled and took no action.
The next morning, Barnhill was escorted from the high school. That morning, when asked the status of Barnhill’s employment with the district Huntsville School District Superintendent Dennis Fisher said he had no comment. Later that same day, Fisher stated that Barnhill had resigned. Asked whether he resigned that morning as he was escorted from the building, Fisher would only state that Barnhill had resigned “today.”
Barnhill’s resignation was accepted by the school board on Wednesday night.
President of the Huntsville School Board Danny Thomas said he was informed by Fisher on Sept. 23 about the exchange of text messages. Thomas said Fisher had contacted an attorney and the attorney had put together a plan on how to handle the situtation. “But we did not discuss it between ourselves. We didn’t vote on it. The superintendent talked to an attorney and we were instructed by the attorney that it did not require board action to take place and the board accepted his resignation.”
The Record reached out to Barnhill for comment several times, but as of press time, had not received a response.
Derek Walter of the Arkansas Activities Association said that the organization has not heard much about the incident since the news broke about the exchange of text messages. He said that not many parents had contacted him to complain and that the school districts are handling the matter internally.
Barnhill has worked as an official during football games on Friday nights. The night of the Elkins-Huntsville game, Barnhill was an official during the West Fork/Green Forest game. Walter said that once an applicant for an official’s position gets a favorable background check, the individual schools make the decisions as to who officiates games.
After a person receives a favorable background check, the AAA does not manage who the individual schools hire as officials.
Elkins Head Coach
A letter dated Sept. 27 from the Elkins School District signed by Elkins School District Superintendent Jeremy Mangrum was delivered to Hutson concerning the text messages exchanged between him and Barnhill.
The letter reads: “This letter results from your text messages with Huntsville School District employee, Randy Barnhill, concerning the high school football game between Elkins and Huntsville. Based on these improper communications, I will be recommending to the Board that you be suspended without pay from your teaching and coaching duties with the Elkins School District for a period of five (5) working days.”
Among other reasons stated for the recommended suspension, Mangrum stated that the information Hutson solicited and accepted was improper and harmful to the integrity of the Elkins athletic program; that Hutson had tarnished the public image of the Elkins School District; that Hutson had disparaged the football team and players; that Hutson had failed to model integrity for the Elkins’ students; and that Hutson had breached the district’s trust and the confidence it had placed in Hutson.
Mangrum also wrote, “Separately, I fully expect you to take responsibility for your actions, including an apology to the football team, or I will proceed to recommend that you be terminated from the district.”
According to the district’s website, it has not held a special meeting to address the recommendation. Furthermore, The Record has not been notified of a special meeting as required by the Freedom of Information Act. The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is Oct. 21.
According to Hutson’s 2019-2020 contract with the Elkins School District, he is paid $76,042 per year.