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SDGLN Exclusive: Palomar president calls gay linebacker, promises him a “fair tryout”

SAN DIEGO — The gay linebacker story has taken a new twist, but it may be much ado about nothing.

Palomar College President Bob Deegan called football recruit Jamie Kuntz on Thursday afternoon and promised he would get a “fair tryout” if he decides to come to Palomar College this spring, Kuntz said in an exclusive interview with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

Deegan also spoke to SDGLN and confirmed his offer to Kuntz.

Given that Joe Early, head football coach for the Palomar Comets, questioned Kuntz’s integrity and said the recruit lied to the coaching staff earlier this week during an interview with SDGLN, the 19-year-old gay linebacker said he isn’t so sure that he would get a fair shot at making the team.

An All-Conference player from Dickinson, N.D., Kuntz had earlier been courted by the Palomar Comets coaching staff and three days after accepting a tryout offer, he had that opportunity yanked for reasons that still remain unclear because of conflicting statements by college officials.

In September 2012, Kuntz was the center of a controversy in Wahpeton, N.D., home of the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) Wildcats, where he had been offered a scholarship to play. While recovering from an injury suffered during a midweek practice, Kuntz was in the stadium press box at a road game in Colorado and was seen kissing his much-older boyfriend while filming game footage for the coaches.

When confronted by NDSCS head coach Chuck Parsons, Kuntz initially denied the allegation, but admitted it once he returned home to his dormitory. Parson responded by dismissing Kuntz from the team, yanking his scholarship and sending the 18-year-old back home to Dickinson, out of the closet, out of school and out of football.

Still looking for a team, Kuntz contacted the Palomar coaching staff with an email touting his high school resume and including a YouTube link to an impressive highlight reel. Within days, the linebacker had an offer to come to San Diego County and try out for the Comets. As the coaching staff prepared to do a background check, Kuntz then informed linebackers coach Robert Bala that he was gay and that his previous coach, Parsons, didn’t like it and dismissed him from the team.

Three days later, Bala informed Kuntz the offer was rescinded. According to Kuntz, Bala cited his out-of-state status and said the team wasn’t interested in bringing on someone who had been kicked off another team, fearing the message it would send the other players.

However, in an exclusive interview with SDGLN, Palomar’s Coach Early said: “Our big thing is, he lied,” speaking as to why the team decided to take a pass on Kuntz. “It’s an issue of integrity and character.”

Early also said “Coach Bala felt Jamie had lied to him.”

With that history, President Deegan told SDGLN that he doesn’t think Kuntz is going to accept the offer of a tryout, despite Deegan’s assurance it would be fair. “I can certainly understand why Jamie would be wary,” Deegan said.

“I wish the school well,” Kuntz said. “I’m trying to move on and focus on finding a place to play football. Palomar’s coaches have made it clear they don’t want me, so I need to find a place that does.”