Former Madison West football coach J.C. Dawkins said he could not stand by in silence.
Dawkins — whose contract wasn't renewed after the 2015 season, his second as Regents' coach — wanted to speak out about his experience at West and with Sandy Botham, who as of last Wednesday night was out as Regents' athletic director.
"I'm not in this to jump up and down as the angry, black man and call people racist," Dawkins said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "I want to see that there are changes made."
Dawkins said Botham's departure was "a step in the right direction. But this is bigger than Sandy Botham," describing the situation at West as a "deep, systemic problem."
Dawkins and Tommy Smith, a former West freshman basketball coach, appeared Tuesday on WISC-TV and the two coaches accused Botham of racial discrimination.
Smith alleged in the broadcast that "Sandy Botham pushed me across the floor in front of at least 30 people" after a Feb. 25 game. Dawkins said during the broadcast that after he and his staff were fired following the 2015 season, "I think people saw the color of our skin and stopped their investigation into who we were as men and what we could bring to the program. I think she did, too."
Botham, a former star athlete at Madison West, took the position in July 2015 after coaching women's basketball at UW-Milwaukee for 16 years and then working for UWM's alumni association.
Botham couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. She told the State Journal last Thursday after the school made its decision to seek a new athletic director: "I can't talk about it at this point."
Stan Davis, a lawyer representing Dawkins and Smith who has been communicating with the Madison Metropolitan School District, said in a phone interview Tuesday he tries to first resolve situations without a lawsuit.
"You shouldn't have to bring a lawsuit to do the right thing," Davis said. "We will continue discussions with the school district."
He said he's seeking that his clients are properly compensated and that the school district "puts in place some processes and solutions so it doesn't happen in the future." He said proper protocol wasn't followed in Dawkins' dismissal and that Botham allegedly "engaged in aggressive behavior with Smith" in the aforementioned incident.
Dawkins said he wasn't coaching football for the money, saying he was paid $4,000.
"I wasn't feeding my family with that," Dawkins said. "I was in it for the kids."
Dawkins said he and his staff — including four other black males who, like Dawkins, also were University of Wisconsin graduates and players — were brought in by former West principal Ed Holmes to be "black role models" for the West student-athletes. However, Dawkins said he didn't feel that administrative or parental support once Holmes retired in 2014.
Dawkins said beyond the unfair way he felt he, his staff and some players were treated, he wanted to bring attention to disparity between the number of minority students and teachers and administrators at West.
Rachel Strauch-Nelson, media and government relations director for the Madison Metropolitan School District, told the State Journal Tuesday in a statement: "While we cannot comment on details of personnel situations, I can tell you that the district has conducted its own investigation of those issues and has taken appropriate follow-up steps.
"As we begin the hiring process, we will also put in place an interim plan to ensure that all programs run smoothly. Again, our top priority moving forward is that all students are well supported and have a positive experience."
Dawkins was Big Eight Conference Coach of the Year after leading West to the WIAA playoffs in his first season, but the Regents won only one game last season.