TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

October 22, 2012

Investigation rules in coach’s favor

Findings come after pink gloves worn in Friday’s game

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

Corbin Independent Schools ruled Thursday that Head Football Coach Steve Jewell was right to discipline players over an incident involving the wearing of a pink hand towel and pink gloves during Friday’s game with Bell County.

The decision came after an investigation conducted by school and central office administrators, including Athletic Director Thom Smith and Corbin High School Principal John Derek Faulconer. The findings were released in a statement late Thursday afternoon.

The investigation ruled the coach is responsible for establishing team rules governing the players and the clothing for the team, that two football players who wore pink gloves during the game did not request approval to wear the clothing prior to the game and acted on their own, and that breaking the rule would bring disciplinary action.

The investigation further stated the penalty for the two players who broke the team rule by wearing clothing that hadn’t been approved was running extra distance, and that the two players disciplined for wearing the pink gloves received the same discipline as other players who wore unapproved clothing.

The decision came two days after Bob O’Neill, the father of Redhound defensive cornerback Austin O’Neill, said in a Times-Tribune story his son was punished for wearing a pink hand towel and gloves at the game. Bob O’Neill said his son wore the clothing to honor friends and members of his family who have cancer, in observance of the month of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Jewell said in the same story that O’Neill’s son was punished for a dress code violation that is not part of team policy, that Austin didn’t obey the uniform policy, did not have prior permission, did not ask, and that the action was what Jewell called “basically an internal dress code violation.”

“Coach Jewell didn’t do anything that he wouldn’t have done with any other students. Like every coach, the coach has rules, and if the players break the rules, they have penalties,” Corbin Independent Schools Superintendent Ed McNeel said Thursday evening.

McNeel added Jewell gave the players the option to wear breast cancer awareness stickers on their helmets earlier this month.

“He (Jewell) took the initiative to ask the kids if they wanted to wear symbols for breast cancer awareness, and he’s done that for years.”

McNeel hoped he and Bob O’Neill could possibly get together to meet and discuss the incident.

Bob O’Neill said Thursday evening he disagreed with the decision, saying there was no written policy, just a verbal policy on team rules. He also was not happy with how the investigation was conducted.

“They called in a few, not all, of the players in a meeting with Mr. Faulconer and the athletic director today. My son was one of those called in. I think it’s a botched investigation. You don’t call in just a few players, you call in all of them. All I wanted out of this was for Coach Jewell to admit he was wrong and apologize,” said Bob O’Neill.

Bob O’Neill added his son was removed from being on four special teams — kickoff, kickoff return and punt teams — by the coaching staff Thursday. He suggested parents of players have a meeting with McNeel, Smith and Faulconer to discuss what O’Neill called “the harassment of some players that continues.”

“For these parents who have told me I’m doing the right thing to speak up, those parents need to stand up for these children. In my opinion, the school is trying to cover this up. I will be taking action on this. Definitely,” O’Neill said.

On team rules, the investigation said, “The Corbin High School football coach is responsible for the establishment of team rules governing the players and clothing for the football team. These rules are verbally conveyed to all players at the beginning of the season and reinforced during training and throughout the season. The rules strive to achieve ‘team unity’ in not allowing ‘one’ player to draw attention to himself. One of the rules is the requirement to wear approved clothing during a football game. Any modification to this rule requires approval from Head Coach Steve Jewell.”

According to the statement on team rule infractions, “The team rule infraction involved two football players who wore pink gloves during the game. Just after the team warmup, an assistant coach noticed that one player had a pink towel, instead of the required white towel. He told the player to go get a white towel and he did. This player did not convey the reason he was using the pink towel, or the wearing of pink gloves, for awareness of breast cancer. The wearing of pink gloves by two players during the game was not noticed at that time. Neither player, prior to the event, requested approval to wear the unapproved clothing. The two players acted on their own to wear the gloves with one of the players stating that he had borrowed the gloves because he had forgotten his gloves.”

The investigation also stated, “The interviews conducted with other team members indicated that they understand this rule that no player is allowed to wear modified clothing or accessories without prior approval from Head Coach Steve Jewell. It was also understood that breaking the rule would be cause for disciplinary action. They also understood that ‘any’ modification to the uniform ‘required’ prior approval from the head coach. NOTE: Last season the steps were followed for the players to wear an arm band in memory of a player’s family member.”

The investigation statement said about the penalty, “The penalty for the two players breaking the team rule for wearing unapproved clothing was running extra distance. In addition, there were two additional football players who also ran extra for breaking other team rules.”

The statement concluded with the investigation’s findings. “The two students receiving discipline for wearing unapproved pink gloves received the same discipline as other players received for wearing unapproved clothing. The wearing of pink to support awareness for breast cancer was not mentioned to the coach, nor was there a request to wear an unapproved item. Early October 2012, Head Coach Steve Jewell gave all football players a choice of two pink emblems to place on the helmets, to bring awareness of breast cancer. These emblems will be worn the remainder of the season. The wearing of pink emblems has been Steve Jewell’s initiative dating back four-plus years. … Corbin High School has held several events during the month of October to bring awareness to breast cancer, and there are additional activities planned.”

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