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Former coach calls Pine-Richland football firings ‘quest for power’ by administration

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — The entire Pine-Richland High School football staff was fired Wednesday night. Parents, players and a now former coach are furious, calling it a “quest for power.”

Channel 11′s Jillian Hartmann said an email was sent to head coach Eric Kasperowicz informing him that his position will be advertised and he would be out of a job.

According to Channel 11′s news exchange partners at TribLIVE, administrators had been questioning current and former players about allegations of misconduct in the locker room. Kasperowicz was supposed to meet with school administrators Wednesday night but was fired before the meeting.

“We have no reports that indicate any hazing with the football team or any other sports group in the Pine-Richland School District,” Northern Regional Police Chief John Sicilia said.

Kasperowicz won four WPIAL titles, two state championships and put the school district in the national spotlight for its success on the football field. He released the following statement Thursday morning:

“I was informed yesterday that my coaching contract will not be renewed. 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. I have 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 8 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. I want to thank all my supporters who know the safety and well-being of students is and will always be my utmost priority.”

The following statement was released by the Pine-Richland School District:

“The Pine-Richland School District does not comment on personnel matters. 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.”

Channel 11 learned a special meeting was scheduled for Friday at noon to accept the resignation of a school board member connected to the situation.

Kasperowicz’s advisor sent an email to Pine-Richland on Friday, requesting a sit-down meeting with the superintendent and other senior administrators.

Current, former players, coaches react to the news

Dozens of players showed up at the team’s football stadium angry and asking why their coaches were fired Wednesday night. They all told Channel 11 that despite a reported school investigation, there is no hazing and no wrongdoing by any of the coaches. They said Kasperowicz molded them into decent men and quality students on and off the field.

Quarterback Cole Spencer said he was pulled into meetings with administrators and interrogated about what happened in the locker room. He said the firings are a much different story than what school leaders told him.

“I went in with the principals twice now before all of this. They asked me a bunch of questions. They made it to the extreme, and it was never that case. They asked where were the coaches and who is to blame for all of this,” Spencer said.

“Coach K. meant the world to this community. Everyone looked up to him, the kids in the youth program. And, you know, they were excited to play for E.K.,” said graduate Jordan Crawford.

“Obviously, me being Captain, I had a big role on the team, and he pushed me to be a leader not only on field but a mentor to other kids,” said former player Jake Leone. Leone was on the team during Kasperowicz’s first season as head coach. Channel 11 asked him if he witnessed any hazing.

“Not only was there no hazing but it was probably because he was the head coach because he created a culture where that wouldn’t be acceptable,” Leone said.

One of Kasperowicz’s most successful former players, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci, defended his former coach. He sent a statement saying in part, “Coach K was the model and the standard when it came to coaches. He made us better players, but more importantly, better people.”

Players and parents told Channel 11 they would sign a petition to get Kasperowicz back as the head coach.

Former quarterbacks coach Todd Jochem issued a lengthy statement on Twitter calling the firings “shameful” and that “senior administrators and the school board members who enable them must resign immediately.” He said he’s had “run-ins with administration” since he started coaching. Jochem called the situation “the manifestation of senior administration’s, and some school board members’, quest for power.”

A petition titled ‘Bring back Pine Richland football coaches’ had nearly 2,000 signatures as of 8 p.m. Thursday.

Pine-Richland students rallied Friday morning in support of the coaching staff.