Community support for fired Pa. football coach persists, but school board seems unmoved

MIKE WHITE
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Students gather in front of Pine-Richland High School rallying in support of the fired head football coach Eric Kasperowicz Friday, Apr. 16, 2021, in Richland Twp., Pa. (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette via AP)

The Pine-Richland School District board did not name a new football coach Monday night, but comments from a few board members made it pretty clear that Eric Kasperowicz probably won't be getting his job back, despite loads of community support for the ousted coach.

The board held a "virtual" meeting at the Pine-Richland administration building. The public was not permitted to attend, but about 200 people gathered outside the building before the meeting to show their support of Kasperowicz, the highly successful coach whose contract was not renewed despite winning four WPIAL titles and two state championships in his eight seasons.

About 10 members of the public made comments to the board by way of cell phones. They criticized the board and the Pine-Richland administration for getting rid of Kasperowicz and his entire staff.

But after the public comments, school board members Greg DiTullio and Matt Mehalik spoke.

"In keeping with its duties, the board, all nine of us, are focused on looking forward and receiving updates from the administration on the search and selection process of a new head coach," Mehalik said.

Pine-Richland informed Kasperowicz by email a few weeks ago that he would not be retained. A letter to Kasperowicz said an investigation into hazing and bullying in the program led to the decision. Kasperowicz has denied hazing and bullying occurred during his tenure.

"You can disagree with administration. I do it all the time," DiTullio said. "But everyone who has seen everything about the investigation came to the same conclusion. Changes are needed in our football program — period. There's no other way to slice it."

School board president Peter Lyons was booed loudly when he arrived for the meeting. A number of the supporters stayed outside the administration building through the first part of the meeting, listening on a speaker to comments from the meeting.

In his comments, DiTullio also asked Kasperowicz to publicly ask his supporters to "stop the attacks, stop the bullying, stop the harassing and stop intimidating" board members and administrators.

Kasperowicz has reapplied for his job. A few weeks ago, Kasperowicz sent a letter to Pine-Richland's administration, asking for a meeting to possibly resolve the matter. He said he never got a reply. Last week, Kasperowicz sent another letter to administrators and board members, asking again for a meeting to possibly resolve the situation. He apologized for his attitude in a meeting during the investigation. He offered suggestions for the future concerning hazing and bullying.

Kasperowicz released his letter on his Twitter account Monday. He never heard back from the board or administrators. He declined comment after Monday's meeting.

While DiTullio said one minute that a change was needed in the football program, the next minute he offered a suggestion that the board and administrators meet with Kasperowicz.

"There's a lot of good ideas in that letter, many good suggestions," DiTullio said. "I would love to sit down and have a conversation [with Kasperowicz] because I really think Eric can be part of the solution."

The next board meeting is in early June. Maybe the school will name a new coach then.

"We are looking and working on ways for additional public input into the selection process and criteria," Mehalik said. "In the best interest of the district, we, all nine of us [school board members], encourage everyone to look forward as well."