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Coach controversies

Brian Bruch's tenure as Lakewood's football coach is over after 13 seasons. But will he lose his teaching job, too?

The Pinellas County School Board has recommended firing Bruch after a district investigation found he directed a "racial remark" at one of his players.

Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox notified Bruch he was suspended with pay as of Dec. 17. The School Board is scheduled to hear his case Tuesday, but Bruch has requested a hearing before an administrative hearing officer in Tallahassee.

That means he likely will be suspended without pay pending the hearing and the board will table the matter until after that. Regardless of the hearing, Lakewood principal Fred Ullrich said he already is seeking applicants for the position.

Bruch declined comment, but his attorney, Mark Herdman, said the accusation was "absurd."

The incident occurred during the final game of the season vs. Dunedin on Nov. 11. According to a memo sent by Wilcox to school board members, Bruch "used vulgar profanity coupled with a racial remark toward a student. Additionally, he admitted to other instances of using profanity with his players."

Herdman said while Bruch shouldn't have made the remark Nov. 11, it was still "locker room talk" that doesn't merit his client losing his job.

"This was a complete lack of judgment," Herdman said. "It was the type of talk that football coaches have used with players for years. It's one thing to go after (Bruch) as a coach, but to go after someone's teaching career by turning this into a racial thing is ridiculous."

A graduate of Tarpon Springs, Bruch played football for Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa. His first teaching job came in 1982 at Northeast, where he also was an assistant football coach under Jerry Austin. Six years later, Bruch moved to East Lake as a teacher and assistant coach. He stayed until 1992 when he replaced Rich Ninis as Lakewood coach.

Bruch, who is 62-71 in 13 seasons, led the Spartans to the playoffs a school-record six times. His best season came in 2002 when his team went 9-3 and lost in the region semifinals to eventual state finalist Jefferson.

Several of Bruch's former players have gone on to star in college or in the NFL, including Tim Carter (Auburn/New York Giants), Aveion Cason (Illinois State/Rams) and Cornell Green (UCF/Broncos). This year's top player, receiver Louis Murphy, orally committed to play for the Florida Gators.

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