After a decade and a half coaching the Tigers track team, Taos Athletics Director James Branch was not approved to return as the boys coach this spring.
In a written statement to The Taos News, Tuesday (March 9), Branch stated that Interim Superintendent Madelyn Marmol issued him a letter three weeks earlier informing him that he would not be recommended for the position, which he has held for 14 years.
“The contention was that I could not perform my duties as athletic director and track coach effectively,” Branch wrote, “even though I have performed all duties for a year and a half under three other superintendents.
“Furthermore, I reapplied for the position and there were no other applicants, however, Benny Mitchell who has been my assistant the past 14 years was appointed the job.”
Ironically, the decision comes as Branch is eligible to receive the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Level Four milestone award in track and field, after accumulating 800 points based on several criteria, including meet championships, district titles, individual and relay championships in district and at state, years of service as a coach and other factors. He describes the award as “among the most prestigious honors awarded by the NMAA and the NMHSCA.”
Branch has led the Tigers to six district runner-up titles, often placing behind the Los Alamos squad, a dominant force in the state; he had also served as head track coach in Questa for seven years, where the team clinched seven consecutive district titles.
Despite the anxiety caused by the dismissal, Branch said he is “thankful that the state's most important athletic governing bodies acknowledge and recognize my accomplishments and for this I am extremely blessed.”
The decision also comes as Taos is preparing to enter the first season on a new track.
“I had been anxiously awaiting the addition of the new track and field complex,” Branch wrote, “and looking forward to working with numerous student athletes, several of whom I have been chasing down the halls in an effort to motivate them to run this season.”
Marmol could not be reached for comment by press time Tuesday (March 9).