Pine-Richland board member resigns amid backlash over football coach's firing; parents call for reinstatement

Tony LaRussa, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·4 min read

Apr. 16—A Pine-Richland school board member resigned his post without explanation Friday amid community uproar over the school district's decision to fire championship-winning football coach Eric Kasperowicz earlier this week.

The school board held a special online meeting at noon Friday to accept the resignation of first-term school board member Ben Campbell, who represents Region 1.

Campbell did not speak at the meeting, nor did board members state a reason for his decision to step down.

But the unanimous vote to accept his resignation came after a number of parents chided the school board and administration for firing Kasperowicz on Wednesday and not providing reasons for the decision.

Campbell, who began a four-year term on the board in 2018, did not respond to telephone calls or emails seeking comment on his departure from the board.

Officials in the district have been tight-lipped about the reasons for firing the highly successful Kasperowicz and his staff.

At the start of the board meeting, solicitor Don Palmer explained the district's silence on the matter.

"The district does not discuss personnel matters in public," he said. "Many comments and allegations are being shared in traditional and social media.

"Since it is the district's well-grounded practice to refrain from comment on personnel matters, it is not appropriate for them to respond," Palmer said.

"The district will also refrain from correcting false statements and allegations being made. It is understood that this is frustrating to some and confusing to others. But our legal advice has remained the same in this case and in others over the years."

Several parents who spoke at the meeting urged the board to reverse its decision.

"I think you can tell by the community backlash over the past few days that you, as the representatives of the community, have made a grave mistake," said Marci Hamilton of Limerick Road. "To have our players coached by someone of the caliber of Coach K and his staff is frankly an honor and privilege. The board has damaged the reputation of these coaches.

"I'd like to see the board admit to its mistake, apologize to the entire coaching staff and invite them back."

Bill Pillar, whose two sons play football, agreed.

"This is a grave error that will have a lasting effect both on returning players and those who follow in the future," he said. "He (Kasperowicz) is an excellent coach and a fine man. To terminate him and his entire staff without a public hearing amounts to a character assassination."

Jason Royal joined the chorus of parents calling for the board to reverse its decision to fire the coach.

"Reinstate the coaches immediately and if not, share why you've made this decision," he said.

Supporters of the coach who led the varsity football team to four WPIAL championships and two state titles have had plenty to say beyond the special school board meeting.

Hundreds of students rallied Friday morning outside the football stadium in support of Kasperowicz and the coaching staff, and comments about the matter on various social media platforms number in the hundreds.

A change.org online petition drive calling for the reinstatement of the entire coaching staff garnered more than 5,700 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

Sophomore Ella Crowell, 15, said she participated in Friday's protest because students needed to show their support for Kasperowicz.

"We're protesting today because we want justice for Coach K," she said. "We weren't given an explanation for why he was fired, and that's something we want to know."

Sophomore Joey Nicassio, 16, said he played as a freshman and that "nothing that happened was out of hand."

"That's why I feel so strongly about this," he said after attending Friday's rally. "That's why I came out here. I know Coach K very well. He's from my neighborhood. If something happened, Coach K would have done something."

The school district informed Kasperowicz on Wednesday that his contract would not be renewed for a ninth season.

That decision came after school administrators spent several weeks questioning current and former football players about alleged misconduct.

After being fired, Kasperowicz pushed back against accusations that hazing and bullying occurred in his program.

"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 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.

"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," he said.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, tlarussa@triblive.com or via Twitter .