Pa. prep football coach, who was fired after winning state title, denies hazing took place

CHRIS HARLAN
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
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A day after being fired, former Pine-Richland football coach Eric Kasperowicz pushed back against any allegation of hazing or bullying in his program.

The school district informed Kasperowicz on Wednesday that his contract wouldn't be renewed for a ninth season despite winning four WPIAL championships and two state titles. The decision to fire him comes as school administrators spent recent weeks questioning current and former football players.

"I am disappointed by this decision and want to unequivocally state that no bullying or hazing took place in the Pine-Richland football program under my watch," Kasperowicz said Thursday in a statement. "I never condoned any bullying or hazing. If I became aware of any such claims I met with the individuals and immediately put an end to it. I addressed and resolved these infrequent events over my eight-year tenure internally within the team. The players and coaches were made aware of my zero tolerance for this type of behavior.

"Certainly if bullying or hazing had occurred under my watch, I would have followed proper reporting procedures as I have always done throughout my professional career."

The team's coaches received an email from school administrators Wednesday night informing them Kasperowicz was being replaced and the assistants would be let go as well. Their dismissal came five months after winning WPIAL and PIAA titles with an undefeated record.

The Rams went 85-18 under Kasperowicz.

"The Pine-Richland School District does not comment on personnel matters," according to a district spokesperson. " The Pine-Richland Athletic Department will be advertising for the position of varsity head football coach. The team has earned on-the-field success. The athletic department recognizes the time, energy and expertise invested by the entire coaching staff."

Along with Kasperowicz, some of his assistants also spoke out Thursday in defense of the football program. Among them, offensive coordinator Ryan Lehmeier has coached at Pine-Richland since 2015 and said he's seen no hazing or bullying associated with the team.

Lehmeier said nobody in the administration talked with him about any allegations.

"It would be speculation for me to tell you why (the administration) did what they did," he said. "I have no idea. I got an email saying I was fired, saying they were not renewing our contracts. And that was pretty much it."

Lehmeier's ties with Kasperowicz go back more than a decade. Kasperowicz was an assistant coach at North Hills under Jack McCurry when Lehmeier, a 2006 graduate, was on the Indians roster.

"Aside from my mom and dad, nobody's had a bigger influence on my life in a positive way," Lehmeier said. "For this to happen to him the way it did, and for things to go down the way they did, I wouldn't wish this upon anybody. If there's anybody who doesn't deserve this, it's Eric Kasperowicz."