By Mark E. Vogler
Saugus Public Schools officials last week suspended Head Football Coach Anthony Nalen as they began investigating allegations that some of his players practiced in their underwear last week.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr., declined to comment on the incident or the disciplinary action initiated against Nalen.
Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem, who has been assuming responsibilities of the athletic director while DeRuosi finds a replacement for James Bunnell, who resigned last month, wrote in an email last week that Chris Coutu, one of the assistant coaches, would be assuming the role of Head Coach. But Hashem did not explain the reason for Coutu’s assignment. Hashem could not be reached for comment this week.
When approached at his office Wednesday afternoon, DeRuosi told The Saugus Advocate, “I can’t talk about that” when asked about Nalen’s suspension. Meanwhile there were reports that the assistant football coaches had quit, according to several sources, leaving the football program in a state of flux.
The suspension followed a complaint to school officials by a parent of one of the football players. Officials were looking into whether the incident involved hazing or constituted any violations of interscholastic athletic regulations or criminal laws.
Saugus School officials received an email from coaches yesterday, indicating that they would return to their positions once the reappointment of Coach Nalen was announced.
The coaches called the treatment of Nalen an injustice to the coach and the football program. The coaches said they would stand by their coach.
Nalen – who came to Saugus with a resume that featured eight years of high school coaching experience at seven different schools, including five years as a head coach – said his first year’s plans are to build a foundation for a winning scholastic football program that will serve the town’s youths for many years to come.
Then-Saugus High School Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Michael J. Nelson expressed confidence in Nalen’s ability and background at the time of his hiring in March of 2017. “Coach Nalen brings great experience, as he was the head football coach at such schools as Randolph High School, Matignon High School, Bishop Connolly High School and Blackstone-Millville Regional High School,” Nelson said.
Besides having great athletic skills in high school and college, Nalen had developed the skill set of a coach – just like his Uncle Tom Nalen, who played 14 seasons for the Denver Broncos and became an offensive line coach for a high school team.
Nalen was a high school sports legend during his days at Pope John XXIII High School in Everett, where he was a three-sport standout. He was the star quarterback of the 2005 Pope John football team, winning MVP honors of the Catholic Central Conference while leading his team to a 9-2 record.
He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Springfield College (2010), where he played on the football team for three years.
Nalen credited his time as a paraprofessional in the classrooms of the Belmonte Middle School several years ago with developing a connection with some future football players at Saugus High.