PLANO, Texas -- Baseball players at a Dallas-area high school had a "fight club" in the batting cages, according to a school district investigation that also found that the team's coaches subjected players to demeaning comments.
Complaints from players' parents led to the uncovering of the fight club, as well as reports that Plano East High School head baseball coach Travis Collins and assistant coach Reagan Allen subjected players to demeaning, sometimes racist comments, according to documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News.
Injured players in particular were targets of coaches' comments, the document showed. One student told investigators, "It was as if it was just a game to the coaches to see who could dish out the funniest nickname or phrase to ridicule the hurt player." The document did not identify the student.
An attorney for the coaches, Giana Ortiz, said they "vehemently deny" the allegations regarding demeaning comments and assert that they had no knowledge of any fight club involving their players.
"They have dedicated their lives to the game they coach and to developing players through positive example and influence," Ortiz said.
However, investigators said the attention generated by the fights was so widespread that the coaches should have known of them, although they occurred while the coaches were away from campus for an annual conference.
The district found that the fights were promoted on social media and that players would come to class with bruised eyes and knuckles after the club fights.
Some players defended the coaches to The Dallas Morning News. Senior Devin Gifford said he never heard the coaches make demeaning remarks and that Collins and Allen cared for their players.
"They criticized us when we made mistakes and praised us when we did well," Gifford told the newspaper. "They never pushed to make injured players play. I hurt my arm once and told coach (Collins) that it still hurt. He just told me to play when I felt ready."
Dan Rudkin, whose sons played for the two coaches for seven years, said he had heard no complaints.
"I've never seen anything that concerned me in all my years with the team," he said. "I never heard of a fight club, and I feel that if the coaches had, knowing them the way I do, they definitely would have done something about that."
Both coaches are on paid administrative leave, and a district statement says neither coach is still associated with the baseball program.
Collins has been with the Plano school district since 2002, and Allen has been there since 2003. Their former players include Jake Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner.