Kentucky coach pleads not guilty in player’s death

I’m really wondering what our area football coaches think about all this. Does this put a strain on your team’s workout regiment? Are coaches going to re-schedule workout times for morning and night and nothing in between?

From The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE (AP) — At a church where he’s a deacon and the high school where he coaches football, David Jason Stinson is well-liked enough to find himself surrounded by supporters despite prosecutors charging him in a player’s death.

On Monday, Stinson pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide in the death of 15-year-old Pleasure Ridge Park High School offensive lineman Max Gilpin, who collapsed at a sweltering Aug. 20 practice after running sprints, sometimes in pads and helmet.

“They’re dragging a very good man through the mud and I don’t understand why,” football booster Rodney Daugherty said of the coach.

A judge released Stinson without bond at the courthouse that attracted at least a dozen community members voicing their support for the first-year head coach. Gilpin’s family also was at the hearing, but did not speak to reporters.

However, Jeff Gilpin and Michele Crockett, the player’s divorced parents, have jointly sued the school’s coaching staff, accusing them of negligence and “reckless disregard,” with details of their son’s health made part of the lawsuit.

It includes statements by Crockett, who disclosed that her son had taken the dietary supplement Creatine for a time but stopped in July when football practice started.

Creatine is an over-the-counter supplement and among the side effects listed by the National Institute of Health are cramps or muscle breakdown, heat intolerance and electrolyte imbalances, although it is unclear if any of those came into play in Gilpin’s death.

Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney David Stengel declined to address the use of the supplement or any possible evidence in the case.

Crockett also said her son had been taking the stimulant Adderall, which is prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Pleasure Ridge athletic director Craig Webb confirmed in a separate deposition that the school knew he had been taking the drug because it was listed on his athlete information form.

One of Stinson’s attorneys, Brian Butler, said the defense will explore Gilpin’s medical history to see if he had any health problems, but did not address Creatine or Adderall specifically.

“But we certainly want to know what his health conditions were because we’ve been charged with a homicide,” Butler said. “Unfortunately, we have to look into those things now.”

The sophomore’s death certificate shows he died of septic shock, multiple organ failure and complications from heat stroke, three days after working out for two to three hours in temperatures that felt like 94 degrees. No autopsy was conducted.

Prosecutors have declined to say why they chose Stinson in what is believed to be an unprecedented case of criminally charging a coach in a player’s heat-related death. Witnesses have said in court filings that the coach was running his players hard, telling them they would do “gassers” — sprints up and down the field — until someone quit. One parent at a nearby soccer field said in an e-mail to the school that he didn’t see the team get regular water breaks.

“This is not about football, this is not about coaches,” Stengel said after the hearing. “This is about an adult person who was responsible for the health and welfare of a child.”

Despite the felony charge, some in the blue-collar south Louisville community are defending their coach.

Parents, students, athletes and others came out for 90-minute rally Sunday and spoke openly about their affection for the coach, including some students wearing black-and-red letterman’s jackets chanting “We love Stinson” and “He’s the Best.”

Stinson is one of the city’s own, graduating from a nearby high school before going on to play offensive lineman for the University of Louisville, then briefly for the NFL’s New York Giants.

“He’s liable to be ruined over this. Even if he comes out exonerated, he’ll probably be ruined and also mentally he’ll be damaged for life,” said 53-year-old Mike Embry, the co-owner of Don Embry Body Shop, a financial booster of the football program.

Stinson left a job with Xerox to become an offensive line coach for three years before taking over as Pleasure Ridge’s head coach in January 2008, going 4-4 last season. Until the case is decided, Stinson has been transferred to non-teaching and non-coaching duties in the school system’s central office.

Gilpin, who was 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, was one of six people to die because of the heat in high school and college athletics in 2008, and cases happen occasionally from sandlot to the pros.

Webb, bystanders and others treated a moaning Gilpin with water and ice packs, according Webb’s deposition. Gilpin was unable to talk with them and his eyes were two-thirds closed, the deposition said.

Crockett arrived to find her son limp, with bloodshot eyes staring straight ahead, an ice pack behind his neck and a hose spilling water over the pack. Authorities said his body temperature was 107 degrees when he reached the hospital.

Butler said the case won’t be settled without a trial because his client “is not responsible for this child’s death.”

“Coach Stinson absolutely believes that he is innocent of these charges. This is a tragedy beyond belief for (Gilpin’s) family,” Butler said. “His heart goes out to them.”

And the community’s heart is being reflected on a Stinson-support Facebook page, which had over 1,400 members as of Monday morning, with most message board posters using the wall as a chance to offer prayers for the coach and his family.

Daugherty worries about Stinson’s financial and mental health.

“He’s a guy with a heart of gold,” Daugherty said. “There were only two people that hurt worse than him. That’s the boy’s parents.”

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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