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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Bishop Luers fans have the letters in Lindsay's name painted on their chests at Friday night's game.

No matter the circumstances, firing a shame

He goes out under his own steam, in a perfect world. There are testimonials. Fierce rivals turn saccharine with praise. His ex-players come back, some from the NFL and some from the sidelines of major college programs, to figuratively hoist him on their shoulders.

In a perfect world, Matt Lindsay exits the way a man deserves to who's given 33 years of his life to something worthy: Upright, and to thunderous applause.

Instead, all we got was a news release winging in from the blue Sunday night, saying that Bishop Luers had fired Lindsay because of "violations of school and Diocesan policies, and his violations of his employment contract obligations." What those violations were, no one would say – nor, because Luers is a private school, are they under any compulsion to do so. The Cone of Silence has descended, and, to everyone's detriment, it's unlikely anyone will lift it soon.

All we know for sure is that whatever happened was serious enough for Principal Mary Keefer to cut Lindsay loose, even as she was calling him a dear friend. Which suggests that she didn't really have much choice in the matter.

What we also know for sure is that this is not, never has been and never will be a perfect world. And that that is a damn shame.

It's a shame not because of the nine state championships Lindsay's teams won, or the 16 sectional, 13 regional and 12 semistates they won, but because you can turn on your TV on Saturdays or Sundays in the fall and see his work. And you can look across the field at Luers' sideline on Friday nights and see more of it.

Anthony Spencer playing football for the Dallas Cowboys, that's Lindsay's enduring legacy. Thomas Hammock coaching running backs and serving as recruiting coordinator at the University of Wisconsin is, too. So are at least a dozen former players – including his son Kyle – who came back to Luers at various times to serve on his staff.

No matter the circumstances, no matter how much or how little responsibility Lindsay bears for his demise, there will always be a deep sadness that attaches to all that now. No matter the circumstances, there's an empty place at Luers this week that wasn't there a week ago, and that is a lose-lose for more people than even Lindsay himself, a man not prone to public introspection, probably realizes.

"He can be a tough guy to read," Kyle Lindsay said a couple of years ago, on the night Luers won a second straight state title and an eighth for Matt Lindsay. "He'd be a good poker player. But the satisfaction we get as coaches, watching these players grow not only as football players but as young men. ... I know that's why he does this and that's why he's done this for so long."

And now he won't. And now it ends, not with testimonials or applause or the roar of the crowd ("Co-ach Lind-say!" they serenaded him last November, as the final seconds of Luers' third straight state title drained away), but with a few brief lines on a release no one ever wanted to send out and fewer still ever wanted to see.

We don't know what happened here. We likely never will, officially. And so judgment will be suspended for now, except to say it again: It's a damn shame, all of it.

"As much as Coach Lindsay and I disagreed this year, I can't help but feel weak right now," Luers player Kendrick Mullen tweeted Sunday night.

He's not the only one.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.