Header pic credit: Florida Tech Athletics
More than two months after former Florida Tech Lacrosse head coach Mark Penn was unceremoniously let go from his job, he still doesn’t have a solid answer as to why he was fired. Penn had been with the program since 2013 as an assistant. He was named head coach in 2018.
Sportslowdown.com spoke to Penn this week, more than two months after being let go by new Florida Tech Athletic Director Jamie Joss, who took over for legendary AD Bill Jurgens on June 7, 2021.
Penn was told he was being let go on Thursday, December 9 with no advance warning. “I was sent a Google invite on Wednesday for a meeting Thursday morning,” he said. “I had no idea it was going to be so they could fire me.”
“The kids were happy, the parents were happy, we were meeting all the benchmarks and my reviews were good,” he continued. “When I pressed for a reason as to why all I was told was they wanted to move the program in a different direction.”
In his quest for answers, Penn also went to the Human Resources Department and was told that Joss was brought in to “change the culture of the Jurgens run the athletic department.”
“I didn’t understand that answer,” said Penn. “He was here for 50 years, I followed Mr. Jurgens’ example. I still do,” he said.
As the meeting was happening, there was a text sent out to players as a team message saying that their coach had resigned.
“I want to make it clear that I wouldn’t have resigned, especially without talking to the kids that had given me everything they had,” he said. “I gave my heart and soul, did everything morally correct. I am a man of God and I sold out for Florida Tech, I believed in the mission statement.”
Penn said he and Joss had professional conversations on previous occasions and there was never any indication anything was wrong. “He never said, hey I don’t like what you’re doing and if you don’t change this or that, I am going to let you go,” Penn said.
The players, parents and the Florida Tech community as a whole set out to find answers, but they were stonewalled. Despite putting flyers up, sending emails, and other communication to the administration, including school President T. Dwayne McCay, Ph.D.
There was silence from the school.
“I know there was an attempt by people to reach out and I know Jamie received hundreds of emails,” Penn said. “No one responded to anything.”
Penn said he thought this team was the best they’ve had and he worked all through the fall and everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the season.
“To fire spring coaches in the middle of the year makes no sense. I wanted to be there for the kids and not uproot my family.”
Florida Tech officially named Brad MacArthur as Penn’s replacement on February 9, two months to the day since Penn was let go. He officially took the reins today.
“I have no doubt that my replacement was pre-planned,” said Penn. “When you find out they were friends, (Joss and MacArthur), it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Florida Tech gave a statement to Inside Lacrosse in December through a spokesperson. We were told the quote that they gave at that time would be the same for our article.
“I know Jamie didn’t tell anyone in the department,” said Penn. “I don’t hold anything against the great people at Florida Tech. I just don’t understand why there is a total disregard for human beings. Quality coaches don’t matter, and lives don’t matter.”
Penn went on to say that he has forgiven Joss and would forgive him publicly if given the chance.
The lacrosse community is a very tight-knit group and Penn said many coaches have reached out to him during the time since his firing. One of those was J.B. Clarke in Tampa. He offered coach Penn an assistant coaching position with his program.
Tampa and Florida Tech will meet on Saturday, March 12 in Tampa, before Penn returns to Florida Tech on April 6, on the opposite sideline.