Jamie Kuntz’s lifelong goal was to play college football.
Growing up in Dickinson, Kuntz spent countless hours lifting weights and running football drills. He dreamed that one day all of his hard work would help him earn a scholarship to play for an NCAA Division I school.
One kiss has, at least for the moment, derailed Kuntz’s dreams.
Kuntz, an 18-year-old Dickinson High School graduate and former standout football player for the Midgets, said Tuesday he was dismissed from the North Dakota State College of Science football team following revelations that he is gay.
Kuntz has since withdrawn his enrollment from NDSCS before ever suiting up in a game for the Wildcats and has returned to Dickinson.
“I still can’t believe I got kicked off for it,” Kuntz said. “I can’t believe it at all.”
Kuntz’s story came to light after a report by Dan Savage, a gay right’s activist and nationally-renowned writer for the Seattle Stranger, in which Kuntz said he was reprimanded by coaches following a Sept. 1 game against Snow College in Pueblo, Colo.
Savage’s report states that Kuntz — a linebacker in his first year at NDSCS — was not playing in the Wildcats’ game because of a concussion he had sustained in preseason practices and that he elected to film the game for his team in the press box.
Kuntz was accompanied in the press box by his 65-year-old boyfriend, who lives in Denver. During the game, the couple kissed.
After the game, NDSCS head coach Chuck Parsons pulled Kuntz off the team bus and confronted him. At that point, Kuntz denied kissing anyone and denied being gay.
“He asked what was going on in the press box and I just played dumb,” Kuntz said. “I said, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about, I just filmed the game.’ He asked, ‘Who was in the press box with you?’ I said ‘My grandpa’ and he said ‘OK.’ I asked, ‘Is that going to be a problem?’ He said ‘Not now, but it is when we get back.’ That was the conversation we had.
“Yeah it was a lie, but come on, football players lie all the time. When coaches call people during the summer and ask ‘Are you working out?’ everyone will say yes, but obviously once we got to fall camp with the conditioning you could tell people were not running this summer, so that is a violation of team policy so they all should be kicked off the team, right?”
After the confrontation, a distraught Kuntz made posts to Twitter that were believed to be suicidal.
Police were called to his dorm in Wahpeton, the report states. After police determined Kuntz was not a suicide risk, he sent a text message to Parsons admitting he had kissed the male companion in the press box and that he indeed was gay, the report states.
Parsons summoned Kuntz into his office the next day for a 10-minute meeting in which Kuntz was informed that his conduct was a “detrimental” and a “distraction” to the NDSCS football program and he would be kicked off the team for violation of team rules.
“They said I was detrimental to the football program on game day,” Kuntz said. “It’s a blanket word they can throw on whatever they want to.”
NDSCS President John Richman is standing by Parsons in his decision to dismiss Kuntz.
“In this case, I firmly believe coach Parsons analyzed the data thoroughly, the facts that he had and made the right decision,” Richman said. “The disciplinary action is appropriate for the behavior that was there. And the behavior, I’ll be very clear, that the behavior has nothing to do with sexual orientation. I firmly believe that and stand behind that.”
The Dickinson Press attempted to reach Parsons, but calls were unreturned.
The letter Kuntz received detailing the reason for his dismissal states: “The head coach reserves the right to dismiss any member for any conduct that is deemed detrimental to the team.”
NDSCS released an official statement Tuesday, saying “Jamie Kuntz is no longer enrolled at the North Dakota State College of Science because he voluntarily withdrew. While a student at the college, Kuntz was a member of the football team. Prior to his withdrawal, he was dismissed from the team for a violation of the football team rules.”
The school outlined 11 possible dismissible behaviors in the release.
Being gay is not listed as grounds for dismissal from the football team in the NDSCS player’s manual.
The manual lists several reasons, but has a clause which states that potential grounds for dismissal are not limited to the reasons detailed in the manual.
Kuntz said he does not plan legal action against NDSCS.
However, he believes it would not have mattered if he would have admitted his sexuality to his coach when Parsons confronted him the first time.
“If I would have come clean initially, I would have been kicked off either way,” Kuntz said. “I don’t see it any different. He said if it was a girl up there it would have been the same punishment. No, I would have been congratulated for it.”
Kuntz said he didn’t come out of the closet until earlier this summer — and that was only to his closest and most trusted friends. He later came out to his family, who he said accepted his sexuality.
Rita Kuntz said she has accepted that her son is gay, but she believes he was taken advantage of by his boyfriend, who is more than three times her son’s age.
“I’m struggling with it,” Rita Kuntz said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I love Jamie and I’m proud of him, but I know what the school did was wrong.”
A 6-foot, 210-pound hard-nosed fullback and linebacker in high school, Kuntz was a Class 3A all-West Region selection following his senior season in 2011.
He had hopes of playing college football for a NCAA Division I team, setting his sights on the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State.
Kuntz told The Dickinson Press in January that NDSU had offered him a walk-on spot as a fullback, but he chose NDSCS because they wanted him to play linebacker.
Kuntz knows his actions could keep him from playing college football, though he hopes that isn’t the case.
“I know I’m good enough to play D-1,” Kuntz said. “It’s a matter of a school giving me, at least, a walk-on opportunity. That’s the least I’m hoping for.”
Vance Volesky, a DHS graduate who was Kuntz’s classmate since fourth grade, played linebacker next to him on the Midgets’ defense. Volesky said he supports his teammate and feels bad that his friend had his dream of playing college football taken away.
“He’s always loved football,” Volesky said. “He’s dreamed of football. He’s still dreaming of football and going big. … You feel sorry for him because that’s all he’s loved ever since ever.”
Since the stories about Kuntz first appeared online, he has received an outpouring of support from friends and people he doesn’t even know on Twitter — including a pair of professional football players.
He received supportive tweets from Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who recently voiced their support of gay athletes.
“It’s been a lot of support,” Kuntz said. “I didn’t really see it coming, but it’s nice to have it.”
Dave Kolpack of The Associated Press contributed to this story.Talk about it