Dale Caparaso is no longer Pasco High's football coach.
Four tumultuous seasons ended during a private on-campus meeting Monday between Caparaso and Pasco principal Pat Reedy. Neither would say if Caparaso was fired or resigned.
Caparaso started strong at Pasco High with a 15-6 record and two playoff berths in his first two seasons. But over the next two seasons, the Pirates' record dropped to 5-15.
In the days leading up to Monday's decision, Caparaso had said he hoped to continue coaching at Pasco in 2007. But by Tuesday afternoon, Caparaso said, "I'm no longer the coach at Pasco."
"I will not have an official meeting (with my players)," he said. "I talked to a few of the assistants. I will eventually talk to all of them as this progresses."
Asked repeatedly if Caparaso was fired or had resigned, Reedy stuck with one statement: "At this point in time, coach (Caparaso) won't be back next year. We'll have another head coach. That's really all I have to say at this point in time."
A pair of influential Pasco High boosters filled in some of the details leading to Caparaso's departure. The rest can be attributed to Pasco's record during his four seasons.
Dr. Daniel McBath is the team doctor, a Pasco High fundraiser and creator of the Bull Pirates club established in 2003. He also graduated from Pasco and speaks with Reedy regularly.
"It simply came down to wins and losses," McBath said. "...I knew it was coming. I think he is a very good coach, but he just didn't fit the match for Pasco High football."
Caparaso, 50, came to Pasco with a rock solid resume. The former James Madison linebacker coached 12 seasons at Bellingham (Mass.) High where he won four state titles. At Pasco, he went 20-21 with two playoff berths in four seasons, both ending in first-round losses to Jefferson. However, it was his final two years that led to waning public support.
Pasco went 2-8 in 2005. The season was drenched in turmoil, beginning with the departure of receiver Dominic Brown to a Georgia school and the multiple suspensions and ultimate dismissal of starting quarterback Tony Smith. Those incidents led to a divided team from the coaching staff down to the locker room.
Caparaso revamped his coaching staff and cut ties with athletic director Jim Ward and baseball coach Ricky Giles, among other football assistants, to bring in his own. Caparaso promised change under his new staff. The result was an 0-5 start that ended in a 3-7 season.
Two losing years also resulted in waning financial support for the Pirates, McBath said. McBath was able to raise $15,000 in one night in 2003 when he created the Bull Pirates. Now his fundraising efforts are focused on a concert planned with the Bellamy Brothers next year with the proceeds going to the athletic department.
"Dade City's used to a winning program," McBath said. "They don't want to see a team that's in last place in the conference. That's been tough. ...They got some money that second year. The third year they didn't and the fourth year I think they got hardly anything. It's hard to go to a corporation and ask for money when they read in the paper, 'Pasco loses again.' "
Former Pasco booster Jamey Bryant, whose son, McClain, transferred to Bushnell's South Sumter High School after the 2006 season, said he doesn't put the blame squarely on Caparaso.
"Several losing seasons hurts your boosters for money you could raise at a game," Bryant said.
McBath said he ran into resistance soliciting money from the community.
"People told me right off the bat until that coach is gone, that was a major problem for me to raise money," McBath said. "That's why I didn't do a whole lot this year. Pat came to me six months ago and said can we get the next concert in gear. It will be a whole lot easier for me to go into the community and get people to contribute money to a concert" than to ask for straight-up donations to the football program.
As far as Caparaso goes, he said he would like to continue coaching somewhere as soon as possible. Pasco has started an immediate search for Caparaso's replacement.
"I'm a football coach," Caparaso said. "That's what I do."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-5315.