Pine-Richland cites ‘pattern of hazing, intimidation’ in letter firing coach Eric Kasperowicz

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Thursday, April 22, 2021 | 8:38 PM


Ousted football coach Eric Kasperowicz “expressed minimal concern for hazing or empathy for the students” during a 2½-hour interview with Pine-Richland administrators in late-March, according to a letter the school district sent him cutting ties.

The three-page letter dated April 14 notified Kasperowicz his contract wouldn’t be renewed and detailed a school district investigation into the football program that found “a pattern of hazing, ‘rites of passage,’ and intimidation occurred in and around the locker room and stadium area for years.”

Athletic director Sean Simmons, high school principal Nancy Bowman and assistant principal Thomas Salopek signed the letter, which the Tribune-Review obtained Thursday from Kasperowicz.

He declined comment.

In recent days, Kasperowicz has denied hazing or bullying occurred in his eight seasons as head coach. The Rams went 85-18 under Kasperowicz, winning four WPIAL titles and two state championships.

The district’s investigation included interviews with 19 current or former players, four assistant coaches and four parents late last month. The lengthy March 29 interview with Kasperowicz also was a significant factor in not renewing his contract, the letter stated.

Pine-Richland concluded Kasperowicz “failed to report serious matters” to administrators, was too focused on winning and failed to “accept responsibility for managing some critical aspects of the program.” Among the examples, the letter revealed the school previously suspended Kasperowicz after “recruiting occurred with an assistant coach and (Kasperowicz) never reported it.”

The letter contained a list of findings the district said were confirmed:

• “Incidents of hazing, ‘rites of passage,’ and intimidation occurred in and around the football program, particularly in the locker room for years.”

• “No consistent approach to locker room supervision by staff was provided and a portion of your response in your interview was, ‘you aren’t paying me enough to sit in the locker room and watch the kids.’”

• “At least five off-the-field fights occurred in and around the locker room or stadium over a period of years. One was reported to administration by a parent. Neither you nor any of the coaches on your staff reported these incidents to the director of athletics or administration.”

• “No reports were shared by you to the director of athletic or high school administration, including the fights, to ensure appropriate interventions and/or consequences were administered.”

• “Multiple students experienced harm from the behaviors and unsupervised environment over a period of years.”

• “Based on the professional judgment of those conducting your interview, you expressed minimal concern for the hazing or empathy for the students. Instead you responded with excuses and blame. At one point, you turned the questioning to Mrs. Bowman and asked about high school related experiences under her leadership.”

The school district’s investigation started with an initial “Nondiscrimination in School and Classroom Practice” complaint, which was confirmed, according to the letter.

Students, parents and community members have rallied in support of Kasperowicz and his assistant coaches, demanding the school rehire them. Kasperowicz confirmed last Friday he had reapplied for the job.

The district’s letter was first mentioned by Pine-Richland school board president Peter Lyons during a press conference Tuesday. Lyons said Kasperowicz received a letter outlining the district’s findings and the recommendation that his contract not be renewed along with an opportunity to respond.

“Any statement indicating that no reason was given for the district’s actions is categorically false,” Lyons said.

At the conclusion of the district’s probe, Lyons said, “neither the administration nor any member of the nine-member school board” could recommend extending Kasperowicz’s contract for another season.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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