Coaches speak out for Tweit

For the past 23 years, Coach Jeff Brinkley has crossed paths with the individual who led him to Newport Harbor High.

That man is Eric Tweit, the real reason Brinkley said he’s a Sailor. Without Tweit’s support, Brinkley isn’t on the verge next season of earning his 200th football victory at the school.

Tweit is the one who told Brinkley of the job opening at Newport Harbor in 1986.

When Brinkley said he walked into the athletic office Tuesday, he and 20 coaches tried to look at the future without Tweit as the leader of the athletic program.

Next season just won’t be the same to Brinkley.

A day after Tweit was fired by Principal Michael Vossen after 20 years as a Newport Harbor athletic director, Brinkley called the decision a mistake.

Vossen said he removed Tweit, 61, from his duty Monday because he wanted to take Newport Harbor into a new direction.

On the same day, Vossen also fired Evan Chalmers after four years as the baseball coach. He went 35-62-1 and the Sailors failed to place higher than fourth place in league and reach the playoffs.

“The reason I was let go was because of lack of confidence in leadership,” said the 44-year-old Chalmers, adding Vossen left it at that. “It certainly doesn’t answer a lot of my questions.”

Brinkley said he has questions as well about the removal of both Tweit and Chalmers, both of whom will continue to teach at Newport Harbor.

Just as Tweit helped Brinkley get to Newport Harbor in 1986, Brinkley said he assisted Chalmers in getting a teaching job at the school in 1997.

Brinkley said he brought Chalmers in as defensive coordinator after one of Brinkley’s former assistants recommended Chalmers.

Brinkley said he and the coaches he talked to at Newport Harbor aren’t buying the athletic program’s new direction.

“This whole thing is pretty unbelievable,” Brinkley said. “I think our athletic program is not a program that needs a new direction. That’s the new buzzword. There might be some other area at our school that needs a new direction because it’s certainly not our athletic program.

“I think our athletic program speaks for itself. It’s got to be easily one of the top five in Orange County. I don’t know why take a new direction with our athletic program, because really the only direction it can go would be down. It’s one of the top athletic programs, across the board, and Eric’s played a large part.”

The Sailors have enjoyed a lot of success with Tweit as an athletic director.

The CIF Southern Section team championships won in football, boys’ and girls’ cross country, boys’ and girls’ water polo, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, boys’ swimming, boys’ soccer, and girls’ track clearly stand out.

To change the face of the school’s athletic program stands out just as much for all the wrong reasons to Brinkley and boys’ and girls’ volleyball coach Dan Glenn, who are tied at No. 2 for being the longest tenured head coaches at Newport Harbor.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Glenn, who has led the Sailors to eight section volleyball titles and four state titles. “It’s a shock because I worked with him for [more than] 20 years. He never missed a [boys’] or [girls’] game. He knows every athlete on this campus by his or her name, actually every athlete who has been here the last 20 years.

“He gives us ownership of our programs and he’s a great leader. He’s someone you can’t replace.”

Next year was supposed to be Tweit’s final year as athletic director.

When the next school year rolls around, Tweit said to expect him to coach girls’ cross country and track and field, sports he’s been involved with at the school since he was hired in 1980.

Rain or shine, Tweit also plans to be at Newport Harbor sporting events to support his colleagues and their players.

“The one thing about [Tweit] is how much pride he has in the high school,” Glenn said. “I don’t think he likes pro or college sports, and I always joked with him about that. He said he always preferred Newport Harbor athletics.

“It’s a tough way to end the school year with Tweit gone.”

The athletic department is not only losing Tweit, but also Judy Ayers, the athletic secretary who is retiring after 26 years.

Brinkley is going to miss those school days in Ayers’ office, where Tweit and countless number of coaches converged.

Tweit and Brinkley have spent so much time in that office. The two go way back, growing up a mile apart in Norwalk.

Both have experienced a lot of good times together on and off the field. Some of the best have been inside Ayers’ office, talking sports and about life.

“We’ve got one of the closest athletic group of coaches around, everyone gets along, no jealousy, everyone shares the athletes, and for somebody to try and tear that down is really mind-boggling to me,” said Brinkley, who has guided the football program to three section championships. “You can’t believe how disappointed all of us are. The coaches care about the kids and their programs.

“It’s a mistake they got rid of these two guys. I can’t say enough good things. Evan had the program going in the right direction. I just don’t like how the whole thing was handled. Very surprised to see their loyalty and the amount of the time and work they put in, and this is what you get at the end?”