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Is Kentucky high school football coach David Jason Stinson to blame in player's death?

A high school football coach in Kentucky has been indicted on a charge of reckless homicide in connection with the death of a player who collapsed during practice on a hot summer day.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted first-year coach David Jason Stinson in the Aug. 20 death of offensive lineman Max Gilpin, 15, who collapsed during a practice at Louisville's Pleasure Ridge Park High. The boy died three days later.

It's a case likely to be closely watched by high school coaches.

A player's death "is every coach's biggest nightmare," Countryside High football coach John Davis said.

"Football is a tough sport and you have to push kids to limits they did not think they could go," Davis said. "But having something like that happen is a scary situation. I don't know of any coach that doesn't wake up in cold sweats thinking about something like that."

Still, he thought it was "a little ridiculous" that the coach was indicted.

Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties, didn't think charges would be filed if there were a similar case in Florida.

That's because in Florida, hot practices are as much a part of football as pads and bleachers.

"I can't envision it happening," Bartlett said. "Every day is a hot practice."

Pinellas defense attorney Jay Hebert agreed, saying any criminal case "would have to be based on a pattern of reckless behavior and a well-entrenched disregard for the criteria set out by the Florida High School Athletic Association."

Gilpin died on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees.

The boy's mother, Glenna Michele Crockett, later told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Stinson acknowledged to her at the emergency room that he had pushed the players hard that day.

"He said he was mad, that they had been goofing off, and that he had told them they were going to run until one of them quit the team," the boy's mother said.

The newspaper also has reported that four people who were on an adjoining field heard a coach deny players' requests for water. The coach's attorney, Alex Dathorne, has said, however, the players got four water breaks during the practice.

Gilpin's body temperature when he reached the hospital was 107 degrees. No autopsy was performed, but a deputy coroner has told the Courier-Journal that he thinks the death was due to complications from heat stroke.

Florida has had a number of college football players die during practices: receiver Ereck Plancher at UCF last year, linebacker Devaughn Darling at Florida State in 2001 and fullback Eraste Autin at Florida, also in 2001.

While football coaches can push their team, Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson says they must use "compassion as well as common sense."

Robinson said coaches "always need to monitor the heat situation, plan water breaks and make sure everyone receives the right amount of hydration."

Pasco High football coach Tom McHugh also said coaches must be cautious.

"Any reasonable man in any sport in any venue should realize that sort of thing could happen at any time," McHugh said. "You do everything to make sure something like that won't happen."

Times staff writers Bob Putnam, Eduardo A. Encina and Izzy Gould contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press.

Is Kentucky high school football coach David Jason Stinson to blame in player's death? 01/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 7:10am]
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