First-year Strawberry Crest football coach Gerold Dickens served a one-game suspension during Friday night’s 37-0 loss to Sickles following a school investigation by a parent who alleged he used racially sensitive language.
Strawberry Crest principal David Brown said the school conducted an internal investigation after a parent and a football player told athletic director Melvin Williams that an incident took place at practice that both felt was inappropriate.
“(The investigation) found that Coach Dickens did make an inappropriate comment during football practice,” Brown said in an email to the Times.
Brown said Dickens, who is African-American, owned up to the comment and he apologized to both the players and the parents who attended a parents meeting two weeks ago.
Louis Gorrasi, the stepfather of a Chargers player, told the Times he had complained to the administration about Dickens using inappropriate language during practice.
Gorrasi said Dickens walked into the weight room on one occasion and told his team, “I’m the head (expletive) in charge. If you don’t like it, there’s the door.”
Brown wouldn’t discuss the specific discipline, but Hillsborough County school district spokesperson Linda Cobbe told the Times it was her understanding that Dickens served a one-game suspension this past Friday.
Dickens did not immediately return a message to his cell phone Monday morning.
Since the school imposed a penalty on its own, there will be no further investigation by the school district’s office of professional standards, Cobbe said.
Brown defended his coach, saying the incident raised “no concern” in Dickens’ ability to lead the Chargers’ program.
“Football is a game of passion and there are times when both players and coaches say the wrong things at the wrong time,” Brown said. “As long as they learn from their mistakes and not repeat them, then a lesson has been learned and all can move forward.”
Dickens replaced former coach Todd Donohoe, who resigned abruptly over the summer.
The Chargers are struggling through a 1-7 season. Take away a 37-32 victory over winless Leto two weeks ago and Strawberry Crest has been outscored 346-19.
Reach Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina with comments and story tips at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @EddieHometeam.