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(Scott Sommerdorf l Tribune file photo) Cottonwood football players had to heal in 2010 after coach Teko Johnson died from a heart attack.
Bill Oram: Cottonwood may have to heal all over again

Let’s hope football coach Josh Lyman is innocent — more for us than for him.

By Bill Oram

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 21 2012 04:22 pm • Last Updated Jun 25 2012 01:36 pm

It’s been two years, which — depending on your perspective — could be too long or not long enough.

In the career of a young and promising football coach, it’s an instant. For a school within whose walls a teacher gets too close to students, two years is forever.

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We don’t know the truth about Cottonwood football coach Josh Lyman. All we know is that the Granite School District has placed him on administrative leave for alleged "inappropriate contact" with an underage female student and that Lyman, in turn, has hired the defense attorney you hire when you’re really in trouble.

As the details, sparse as they remain, came out on Thursday, I kept thinking back to Aug. 20, 2010. It was the first game at Cottonwood since coach Teko Johnson, who had been hired earlier that year, died of a heart attack while on a family vacation in Atlantic City, N.J.

That night, Lyman coached his first game as the head coach, and that was the night Cottonwood began to move on from the tragedy of Johnson’s death.

The Colts scored two defensive touchdowns in the final three minutes to stun Alta 28-21.

If you were there, you probably cried.

In that sense, Josh Lyman healed Cottonwood. He was young and he was passionate and players related to him. A former receiver at the University of Utah, fighting for a foothold in coaching, he needed a mentor as desperately as any of the players. Like them, he was put in a position he was in no way prepared for.

He led Cottonwood to a 10-1 record and was named The Tribune’s coach of the year. "The fact I got thrown into it," Lyman said then, "in the long run, probably has made me better."

And it was ultimately good for Cottonwood, which next season might just have the best football team in Class 5A. But if the accusations against him are true and he loses his job, who will heal the Colts now?

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Heart attacks can be scientifically explained. They occur when blood flowing to the heart stops and stays stopped until the organ doesn’t get the oxygen it needs and begins to die.

WebMD doesn’t have an entry for bad decisions.

This situation serves as a reminder of the fragility of not just a career, but also the relationship between children and the people we trust to protect them. In a day and age when the name "Sandusky" unfailingly delivers chills, we want to believe that teachers and coaches will be, for our children, only teachers and coaches.

And perhaps that is the saddest realization to come out of all of this: It will happen here.

This truth is not tethered to Josh Lyman’s innocence or guilt. As much as we want to live in a world of Angry Birds and 9-to-5s and "Mad Men" on Sundays, bad people will do things that shatter that illusion.

But today you should hope, and pray if you pray, that Josh Lyman isn’t one of them.

Not for Josh Lyman.

For the rest of us.

boram@sltrib.comTwitter: @oramb

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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