Ribault head football coach removed from job, interim coach named

Duval County Public Schools cites ongoing investigation as reason

By Justin Barney - Sports Editor, Allyson Henning - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ribault High School is changing head football coaches two weeks before the regular season kicks off.

Kelvin Smith was removed from his position with the Trojans following an internal investigation by Duval County Public Schools. The district did not elaborate on the decision. Players and parents were notified of the decision Saturday.

The district said in a statement, "Due to an ongoing internal investigation, the Head Varsity football Coach at Jean Ribault High School has been removed from his position."

Smith did not immediately return a message seeking comment. 

While an announcement of an interim coach had not been officially made, a Ribault player said that the team was told Saturday that assisant Lin Shell would assume the interim role. Shell has served as the defensive backs coach for the Trojans and played in the Canadian Football League for three teams there. 

Shell was in the news a year ago for helping disarm a woman in the Ribault gym who was brandishing a gun following a fight that was captured on social media. 

The player, who asked not to be identified, said players were upset over the news that Smith was being let go.  

When word got out that Smith was kicked out of his coaching job, reactions started coming in from Ribault High School alumni.

"It's not a good time. I thought this would be a turnaround year for the football team. I thought they were headed in the right direction, but with them firing him, it’s just going to be, I don’t know," Brian Armstrong said.

"I work with the band program, so doing the kids like that is a real disservice, as well. So we’ve got to get to the bottom of that fast and find out what’s really going on. That’s really sad, it breaks my heart," Lonnie James said.

Smith was entering his fourth season at his alma mater. He led the Trojans to three consecutive state playoff berths, posting marks of 7-4, 7-4 and 5-6.

"That's unbelievable. We need to get to the bottom of that and see what's going on, because I know he was getting very acclimated to the community," James said.

Team mom Kimberly Sharpe said Coach Smitty, as the team knew him, was more than just a coach.

"He is a mentor. He is the anchor for us," Sharpe said. "He's a friend. He is a teacher."

She and others close to the team learned the news Friday while on campus.

"Our boys are devastated," Sharpe said. "It's a loss. Pretty hard. Wish that it could've been differently. Wish that we could have maybe handled it differently."

Smith was a longtime Ribault assistant before his promotion in December 2015 to replace Anthony Flynn.

Smith was a linebacker at Ribault and went on to play at Florida State and later in the Canadian Football League.

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