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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, April 8, 2005

Kahuku coach fired for drinking incidents

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Kahuku High School girls softball coach fired for condoning "the purchase and transport of alcohol" by some of his underage players said he "never provided alcohol to those players" and vowed to clear his name.

Bu Heffernan, the O'ahu Interscholastic Association's Eastern Division Coach of the Year this past season, yesterday confirmed that he received a letter of termination from the school, which investigated the incidents. His termination takes effect today, according to the letter.

The letter, dated March 25 and signed by school principal Lisa DeLong, said Heffernan was fired for his "failure to behave in a manner befitting a Kahuku High and Intermediate staff member. Specifically, by your inaction, you condoned the purchase and transport of alcohol by minors in your charge as a coach."

The letter also said Heffernan "consumed an alcoholic beverage in the presence of minors and by your inaction condoned the use of alcohol by said minors who were also in violation of curfew laws." The letter also said Heffernan failed to notify parents that their children were in violation of alcohol and curfew laws.

Heffernan said he never bought alcohol for his players, and added he warned them about underage drinking, but acknowledged he did not stop them from drinking their own alcohol on one occasion.

The incident is the second recent alcohol-related case involving high school coaches and their players. In both cases, the coaches were fired from their coaching positions. Last month, a Lana'i girls basketball coach and his assistant were fired after allegedly providing alcohol to their players during a trip to O'ahu for a preseason tournament in March. Nine Lana'i players also were released from the team.

Heffernan, who works in the restaurant business, said he has retained a lawyer to pursue possible legal action against the involved parties, and eventually get his coaching position back.

"I want to get my name cleared," Heffernan, 34, said. "I know I've never done anything to violate my job as a coach or as a friend, or whatever I may be doing during coaching hours or after coaching hours."

Heffernan said he was placed on paid administrative leave in January after Roseanne Ulii — who is the mother of one of the players involved in situation — met with Delong and told her about the alleged infractions.

Ulii said she did not file a police report and decided to leave the matter with school administrators.

Ulii said her daughter and another softball player drank alcohol provided by Heffernan after a Kahuku-Kailua football game at Kailua in the fall. Ulii's daughter was 17 at the time. The legal drinking age is 21.

"He was buying alcohol for them and drinking with them," Ulii said. "They were drinking until 5 in the morning."

Heffernan denied providing alcohol to his players following the Kahuku-Kailua football game.

"I was hanging out with my friends and they (the players) showed up," Heffernan said. "They approached to say hi and just hang out. They come with their own stuff (alcohol). It is my job to encourage (the players) to do the right thing."

Heffernan said he didn't feel the need to call the players' parents about their daughters' underage drinking, and added that he rarely talks to those players' parents at practice.

Heffernan said the accusations were made by a disgruntled Ulii and her daughter, who were upset about the daughter's playing status on the team. Ulii's daughter missed several practices and was released from the team before the season started, Heffernan said.

She was later reinstated to the team because DeLong told him he violated a confidentiality rule by voting the player off the team, Heffernan said. Heffernan said the player was "not voted off," but released by him because she had more than three "unexcused absences" from the team.

Heffernan last month was named OIA East Coach of the Year, one season after sharing the same honor with two other coaches. The Red Raiders came within one game of the Division I state tournament this season.

Ulii said she has since reprimanded her daughter for drinking, and has closely monitored her whereabouts.

"We had a talk about the seriousness of the whole situation, and what can become of it," Ulii said.

The termination letter was signed by DeLong, and copies were sent to Lea Albert, the complex area superintendent, and Clayton Fujie, the deputy superintendent.

DeLong and a spokesperson for state schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto said they could not comment on personnel matters because of confidentiality laws. DeLong and the spokesperson would only confirm that the investigation into the allegations about Heffernan was completed and "appropriate action" was taken.

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2458.