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Duxbury High athletic director Thom Holdgate to be ousted amid scandals involving coaches

John Tlumacki/GLOBE STAFF

The fallout from Duxbury High School’s coaching scandals continues, as the school’s longtime athletic director has been informed his contract will not be renewed after the school year ends this month.

Thom Holdgate, who for 19 years has managed a program whose teams and athletes have won a trove of championships, has established himself as one of the state’s most influential athletic directors. But his future in Duxbury was torpedoed by controversies involving two of the school’s former varsity coaches — Dave Maimaron in football and John Blake in boys’ hockey.

Holdgate wrote to Duxbury’s coaching staff and Patriot League officials Wednesday that the school department informed him last Friday that his three-year contract would not be renewed, according to a copy of the correspondence.

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Holdgate declined to comment, pending the completion of his tenure in Duxbury. A source familiar with the process said a school official told Holdgate his ouster was connected to the scandals.

Matt Ellis, a spokesman for the Duxbury schools, said in a statement, “Thom has played a key role in the success of the DHS athletic programs for the last 19 years. We value his service and appreciate his commitment to our student athletes.

“At this time, and as we continue to heal and move forward, we felt it was in the school’s best interest to seek new leadership. We wish Thom the best in his future endeavors.”

Holdgate’s future in Duxbury appeared secure until news broke in March that the football team had used Jewish terms and Holocaust-related language — such as “rabbi,” “dreidel,” and “Auschwitz” — to call plays at the line of scrimmage in a game against Plymouth North.

Later in March, Joseph and Melissa Foley filed a lawsuit in Plymouth Superior Court alleging that Blake, while serving as a physical education teacher at Duxbury Middle School, repeatedly raped their son, Parker Foley, in the mid 2000s. The Foleys sued Blake and the Duxbury Public Schools, alleging that Blake’s sexual assaults contributed to their son’s drug addiction. Parker Foley died of an overdose in 2020 at the age of 27.

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School officials fired Blake in April, citing the results of a six-month internal investigation. Blake has denied any wrongdoing and has filed a countersuit against the Foleys, alleging “character assassination.”

Holdgate has not publicly commented on either controversy, other than to discuss how the Duxbury football team would resume play after Maimaron was fired in March. Holdgate has told reporters that only the office of Superintendent John Antonucci would comment on the scandals.

Holdgate serves on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association and co-chairs the task force that has developed protocols for the state’s high schools to compete during the pandemic. He was considered a candidate to succeed William Gaine Jr. as executive director of the MIAA and the Massachusetts Secondary School Athletic Directors Association, until the Maimaron and Blake cases began commanding headlines.

Gaine announced in February that he will retire Sept. 1, after more than 40 years with the organizations.

Holdgate, a former president of MSSADA, was honored in 2010 by the association and the MIAA as the state’s Athletic Director of the Year. Before Duxbury, he served three years as AD for the Nantucket Public Schools.

Numerous members of Duxbury’s varsity coaching staff said in interviews Thursday that they strongly opposed Holdgate’s ouster.

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John Bunar, who has coached boys’ tennis since the mid 1990s, said it’s “unimaginable” how good Holdgate was at the job and called him an “amazing professional.”

Bunar said, “I can’t see anybody better at the job than him. It was kind of shocking to me. … It’s a dark day for the kids of Duxbury.”

Girls’ tennis coach Lori Seman, who started in 2013, said it’s “extremely unfair” that the actions of others at the school have had harmed Holdgate and the town.

“I think Thom’s a scapegoat,” Seman said.

Holdgate was informed that his contract would not be renewed soon after Antonucci released a summary last week of an investigative report on Maimaron and the football team.

Maimaron had coached the Duxbury team to five Super Bowl titles and an overall record of 159-43 since he was hired in 2005. Before he was fired, he issued a statement, saying, “I want to extend my apology for the insensitive, crass, and inappropriate language used in the game on March 12th. The use of this language was careless, unnecessary, and most importantly hurtful on its face — inexcusable.”

According to the summary of the 56-page investigative report, members of the football team used the Jewish words and Holocaust-related language to call plays on the practice field as far back as 2010. They also routinely said a Christian prayer before games for years, and they attended a Catholic Mass before their annual Thanksgiving games, both of which also violated school rules, according to Antonucci.

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The investigation found that Jewish terms and Holocaust-related language were not previously used in games before the most recent season, only in practices. But the coaching staff for the past several years also used profane and vulgar language, including sexually offensive jokes and innuendo, and condoned such language by students, according to the investigation.

Maimaron was placed on leave from his job as a special education teacher at Duxbury High School in March when the scandal broke. After the investigative report was released, Antonucci announced Maimaron would resign from the position June 15.

Maimaron, in a statement after the summary of the investigative report was released, explained that Jewish members of the football program “several years ago” began using terms such as “rabbi” and “dreidel,” because “they claimed, tongue in cheek, that Jewish culture was ‘underrepresented’ in the football program.”

Maimaron said he should have stopped it. “In hindsight, from the start, I should never have permitted the derivation of any play call based on a Jewish theme,” he said. “That was my mistake and I own that.”

As for Holdgate, his future is uncertain.

Globe correspondent Trevor Hass and John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to the story.



Bob Hohler can be reached at robert.hohler@globe.com.