CHANDLER, Ariz. - The new Hamilton High School football coach has a history of winning, but also a history of program adversity that makes his choice a curious one, given the circumstances.
In the meantime, a former player is closing in on a plea deal that could make him a key figure in breaking the hazing case wide open.
Nathaniel Thomas is the only adult of the three players charged in the Hamilton hazing scandal. The former defensive starter is moving towards a plea deal that could open the door towards testimony against the three administrators who may have known more than they led on.
"It's a very sensitive issue in the Phoenix area, so I get the concern and understand the concern," said Zdebski.
Mike Zdebski, a Hall of Fame coach from Michigan, was announced as the new Hamilton coach, but in an attempt to escape the stigma of hazing, Hamilton didn't get very far.
In 2011, Zdebski's program was rocked by a hazing scandal that resulted in five players suspended and two assistant coaches fired.
Chandler officials said in their review, the incident "didn't measure up to hazing," however, local news reports in Michigan suggested otherwise.
The victim's mother told the Oakland Press that her son was duct taped to a pole, punched in the head and showed signs of a concussion.
"We talked about it and it was there, it was an isolated event that was dealt with appropriately by our administration," said Zdebski.
In the end, he's hoping to change the culture and the image of Hamilton football.
"As coaches we have that strong tool and that ability to hopefully make better people and I think any kid that's a part of an athletic program that really focuses on those concepts, I think it just makes us all better people in life."
Zdebski's son was a senior captain on that 2011 team, but when asked directly, the new Hamilton coach would not say if his son was among the five players suspended.
The Chandler School Board is set to meet on January 24th. They have to formally approve the hire, something that is typically rubber stamped, but not so much in this case.