Public supports suspended soccer coach

BY TOM FONTANA

Correspondent

KINGSLEY – A crowd filled the Mountain View board room Monday night, Oct. 22, to express support for the high school’s soccer coach, Roger Thomas.

Thomas was suspended from coaching two games following a 24-1 victory over Old Forge on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 16, at the Eagles’ field.

Mountain View superintendent Francine Shea has refused to make the reason for the suspension public, except to say it was not just because of the score of the game.

The day after the game, Shea, high school principal Robert Presley, and athletic director Jan Price met with Thomas to inform him of the suspension.

(The two games from which Thomas was suspended – against Abington Heights and Delaware Valley – actually were cancelled.)

Superintendent Shea clarified Tuesday morning that the only game that Thomas was suspended was an exhibition game against Dallas scheduled for Tuesday, and that he would not be suspended from PIAA playoff games.

She did note that the board and administration would review the coaching situation after the season was over.

Mountain View, a Class A school, had played in Division I since the 2004 season, but this season the Eagles were moved to Division III with other Class A teams as part of a sports-wide restructuring of the Lackawanna League.  Thomas’ team has been vastly outscoring opponents throughout the season, which has led to opinions that the team pairings have been unfair and unsafe for the players.

Board president Todd Adams addressed the topic early at the Monday evening board meeting, inviting the public to offer comments.  He reminded the guests that the board does not discuss personnel issues, and that the decision concerning Coach Thomas “is between him and us.”

Several visitors spoke, clearly upset about the administration’s reprimand of Thomas.

Mary Ketterer read a statement asking, “Why is the Mountain View family not showing loyalty to its own?  Is winning by the numbers a terrible sin?   Shame on those who turn on their own.”

Debbie McWhorter pointed out, “All teams go out there to score and win big.  People jumped to things without talking with (Coach Thomas).”

John Goodenough directly asked Shea, “Was a warning ever given to any coach of what score was acceptable?  Was there ever a warning to keep the score under control.”

When Shea did not answer, Goodenough stated, “I’ll take that as a ‘no.’”

William McDonald, a volunteer assistant coach who was on the field with Thomas and the team at the Old Forge game, offered a detailed account of a confrontation he claimed occurred during the game.

“About 10 minutes into the second half,” McDonald told the board, “the high school principal (Robert Presley) approached Roger on the field and told him school board president Todd Adams was demanding that Roger bench the varsity players and play the junior varsity.  The principal continued to distract Roger.”

McDonald implied that there was an impression that Thomas’ playing his best team members “demoralized” Old Forge by letting Mountain View continue to dominate the game and keep scoring.

“Mountain View and Old Forge should never have been scheduled to play each other in the first place,” McDonald concluded.

Former soccer coach Joseph Kulyeshie offered his perspective on the controversy.  “Old Forge hates (Mountain View),” he stated.  “Everyone down there hates us.  Games were decided before we even stepped on the field.  It’s not safe for us to play in this league, and Roger is taking the blame.”

Later, speaking with the Independent, board president Adams denied instructing Presley to tell Thomas to bench varsity players.

“As a board member, I have no authority to do that,” Adams said.  “I did tell the high school principal that I was unhappy (about the score) and thought it was a disgrace.  But I said this as a concerned parent, not as a board member.”

When asked if the principal had the authority to instruct Thomas on how to coach the game, Adams said, “As far as I know, an administrator of the school trumps anything.”