FEAR FACTOR: Middleton’s athletic department has become the bullies during a bullying investigation


Editor's Note: The following is an opinion piece by News Publishing Co. Sports Editor Rob Reischel



Keep quiet, don’t talk to anyone. If you do talk, be prepared to face the repercussions.

This is the unofficial mantra of Middleton’s athletic department in 2023, where A.D Jamie Sims, associate A.D. Brad Crandall and athletic assistant Amy McCall are playing the parts of Tony Soprano, Paulie Gualtieri and Christopher Moltisanti.

And just think folks — this type of leadership is ONLY costing the community $263,000 a year — a price tag far higher than any other athletic department in the state. And that’s before benefits are included.

In the wake of the bullying scandal inside Middleton’s football program and the resignation of coach Jason Pertzborn, Sims and his crew haven’t looked for solutions. They haven’t attempted to solve problems.

Instead, they’ve become bullies themselves and tried silencing anyone and everyone around Middleton High School.

According to multiple sources, Sims, Crandall and even McCall have warned folks not to say a word to about the scandal. Instead of getting to the bottom of the problem, they’ve tried using scare tactics to muzzle building employees.

And it isn’t winning a lot of points.

“The cover up is always worse than the crime,” said one district employee. “And they’re a lot more worried about keeping everybody quiet than they are about fixing the problems — and there’s a lot of problems.”

“When they’re so worried about keeping us quiet, it makes you wonder what they’re hiding?” the source continued. “And are they just trying to protect their own [tails]?”

Those are extremely fair questions. And ones on the mind of many inside MHS.

Sims, who was hired in June, 2020, followed in the footsteps of two elite athletic directors — Luke Francois and Bob Joers.

Both ADs were big on communication, treated people fairly and with respect, and didn’t use fear as a motivator. That appears to have changed with Sims & Co.

“The stuff going on now would have never happened with Bob and Luke,” another source in the district said. “I can tell you, people aren’t happy. We’re going to lose a lot of good coaches if they keep Jamie around. Heck, we already have.”

Both Francois and Joers operated one-person departments and each had a secretary.

Francois, who was also an Associate Principal, was a man ahead of his time, a gifted problem solver who brought groups of people together. He left in July, 2011 to become the Superintendent at Mineral Point and is the Superintendent at Waterford today.

His departure is still being felt more than a decade later.

Joers was Middleton’s athletic director from 1995-2004, left to run his own business, then stepped back into the job when Francois moved on. Joers was a man of the people and was a staple at events — no matter how big or small.

Joers, who oversaw all activities at MHS in addition to athletics, died on May 15, 2020 of pancreatic cancer. Things haven’t been the same since.

Sims was hired in June of 2020, Ben White was named associate athletic director and Mindy Ripp was hired as the athletic assistant. It marked the first time Middleton had a three-person department — two athletic directors, as well as an athletic assistant.

White, Middleton’s long-time boys volleyball coach and a trusted confidant of Joers, knew the inner workings of MHS and seemed like a natural choice for the A.D. job. But after settling for second place, White eventually went looking for greener pastures and resigned after 18 months.

Ripp lasted one month less than White in a department that was beginning to trend downward. Sims replaced them with Crandall and McCall.

Several coaches said they didn’t trust Crandall, and two called him the “Mr. Smithers” of the department in reference to “The Simpsons” character. McCall is widely seen as intrusive, and someone who continually oversteps boundaries.

Sims himself was set to jump ship and accepted a principal position at Sun Prairie West in March, 2022. But the Middleton-Cross Plains School District gave Sims a substantial raise to stay in a job he had held for just 21 months.

The logic of that is currently questionable, at best.

Most athletic departments across Wisconsin have one single A.D. There is no associate. Roughly half of the state’s athletic directors have an athletic assistant.

Middleton has a three-headed monster with the largest payroll of any athletic department in Wisconsin. Sims leads the way with a hefty contract of $125,640, while Crandall earns $89,291.30 and McCall makes $48,318.40.

They receive various benefits in addition to these salaries.

Despite having a bloated department, many agree that communication is dramatically worse today and more things have fallen through the cracks than ever before.

“There’s just too many cooks in the kitchen,” one source said.

For example, Middleton’s boys basketball team did several hours of fundraising so they could afford a coach bus for a recent four-hour trip to northern Wisconsin to play in the prestigious ‘Battle of the Border.’ To the basketball Cardinals, this was their Super Bowl.

Instead, the paperwork was never submitted and Middleton’s players and coaches spent more than eight hours round trip on a yellow school bus.

“It’s sloppy,” one source said of the department. “And things move slower than they used to because you have people getting in each other’s way now.”

What has many coaches more upset than anything, though, is an athletic department that’s tried solving a bullying issue by becoming bullies themselves.

As Alanis Morissette once sang, “Isn’t It Ironic?”

Just 10 months ago, Sims resigned his position as A.D., had one foot out the door, cashed in on a hefty pay raise and told the Times-Tribune: “What’s been great is 100 percent of the coaches, 100 percent of the community members that I’ve heard from have told me they’re happy I’m staying.”

Today, those opinions have changed.

And many wish Sims would have kept walking when he had the chance.


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