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Seven months after racy text messages cost him his job at the University of Toledo, Kevin Hadsell remains unchanged.
The eccentric track and field and cross country coach still lacks maturity, still chases young women, and still enjoys sneaking a drink at work.
This time his employer encourages such behavior.
Hadsell, at least for now, is an actor, a transition a smart aleck might suggest is natural considering he fooled everyone at UT throughout a 15-year career mixed with unprecedented athletic achievement and debauchery acceptable only on fraternity row.
John Strauss, the 40-something-year-old character whom Hadsell will play in an upcoming independent film, is a free spirit who soldiers through the work week at a publishing company by sipping scotch and making passes at young female clients. And, like Hadsell at UT, Strauss is good at what he does. It’s a textbook example of art imitating life.
"I literally said to the casting director, ‘Sit back and relax, brother, because this is me,’" said Hadsell, who will co-star in the film tentatively titled, Reservations. "And I nailed it."
Hadsell, 43, shows no shame in the wake of a scandal that gave him little choice but to resign in January when confronted by his superiors with copies of lewd texts he sent to one of his student-athletes.
When contacted by The Blade for an interview, Hadsell suggested a reporter meet him at UT’s track, which is located a shot put’s throw from the Savage Arena offices occupied by his former bosses. Told that might not be a good idea, Hadsell insisted on the location and arrived wearing the ring he collected for his women’s team capturing the 2011 Mid-American Conference cross country championship.
Over the course of an hour he waved to former colleagues passing by and admitted he reached out to school officials to endorse candidates for the position he once held. One of them, Linh Nguyen, ultimately landed the job although a school spokesman said the hiring process "was well under way" before Hadsell shared his opinion.
"I see a lot of myself in him, minus the cussing, the drinking, and dating young women," Hadsell said of Nguyen, who previously directed a turnaround at UNC-Greensboro.
Hadsell, a five-time MAC coach of the year in women’s cross country, is not closing the door on a return to coaching. However, he is not naive to expect athletic directors to beat down the door of a coach in a nonrevenue sport whose name is plastered in infamy on the Internet. A story from the Web site Deadspin revealed Hadsell drank alcohol at practice and that the coach had romantic relationships with athletes during his time at UT. Hadsell later admitted to both allegations.
The potential reward for a school sticking its neck out for Hadsell is unlike Western Kentucky hiring disgraced former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino, or Washington State doing the same with Mike Leach, who was accused of abusing football players at Texas Tech.
In other words, Hadsell’s risk level is high and his ability to generate money for a school is low.
"I doubt any athletic director will think rewards he may be able to bring are worth the risk they would take by hiring him," Jesse Squire, a Sylvania resident who publishes a running blog, wrote in an email. "There are more successful coaches in track and field who were caught up in similar situations and never worked in college again, such as former [Louisiana State] women's coach Loren Seagrave."
Seagrave, who guided LSU to three national titles in the late 1980s, was fired about that time for having an inappropriate relationship with one of his student-athletes.
Hadsell, who said he has not applied for any coaching position, seems conflicted about what lies ahead. In one breath he says, "I don’t necessarily think I’m completely done with coaching. I miss the challenge of it. I miss the kids," and in the next says, "I love being around athletics, but honestly my personality is more geared toward [acting]. I love being around other actors, other artists. People are themselves and nobody judges you."
Hadsell, who has never been married and has a young adult son, decided to pursue acting at the tale end of a soul-searching trip he took to California weeks after he lost his job. He studied books, contacted a local talent agency, and got fit.
He was 212 pounds when he resigned and now is a svelte 182. He memorized a monologue to take with him to auditions, putting his spin on a scene from the film Glengarry Glen Ross in which Al Pacino’s character confronts Kevin Spacey’s character for screwing him out of $6,000 and a Cadillac.
The gigs Hadsell has attained are small but many, ranging from a commercial for a Pittsburgh steel company to a 30-minute comedy in which he plays a sports fanatic, to his role in a full-length film as a tough, opinionated bar owner caught in the middle of a bombing investigation.
Filming for Reservations, the movie in which Hadsell essentially plays himself, is set to begin at the end of this year.
Hadsell recently earned recognition at a talent showcase in New York, picking up honorable mention actor of the year among more than 100 men 21 or over. He collected awards in other categories as well.
"He goes on every audition that fits him or he’s allowed to go to," said Justin Shivak, director of Starbound Entertainment Group in Sylvania. "He just goes and goes and goes. Those are the people from what I’ve seen that become the most successful in this industry."
Hadsell splits time between his home in Toledo and New York City where he pays $400 a month to stay with friends.
He says he’s more at peace now than when he coached. His blood pressure, which was perpetually high while worrying about 60 or so athletes, recently checked out at a normal 120/80.
Last month, for the first time since losing his job, he said he made enough money acting to break even. There’s a sense of relief, he says, in knowing no one at an audition knows or cares about his past indiscretions.
"I almost look at it like coaching has been preparation for acting," he said. "Acting is interacting with people and you say something to elicit a response. As a coach I’ve made people laugh. I’ve made people cry. I’ve made people angry. I’ve made them happy. I’ve made them feel good about themselves. I’ve motivated people. You know what I’m saying? There’s no better acting than that."