July 1, 2009

Report on Ky. player death: Coach followed rules

MORE: Fellow Kentucky coaches support actions of accused in case

LOUISVILLE, Ky. A school system report released Wednesday on the heat-related death of a football player concluded a Louisville coach and his staff did not break any high school athletic rules, and found evidence the sophomore was ill with a headache and other symptoms before the practice.

The Jefferson County Public Schools report comes after the death of 15-year-old sophomore Max Gilpin, who collapsed while running sprints known as "gassers" at the end of a preseason practice last August. He died three days later of septic shock, multiple organ failure and heat stroke.

Pleasure Ridge Park coach David Jason Stinson has been charged with reckless homicide in a rare criminal case of coach in a heat death. He has pleaded not guilty and a trial is set to begin Aug. 23.

The report, which is separate from the criminal case, concluded that Stinson and his assistants may not have used "appropriate means" to motivate the players but did not break any athletic rules.

The report also said the district's independent physician, Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, found that there was evidence Gilpin was ill prior to the Aug. 20 practice. The doctor concluded that an illness would have made Max more susceptible to heat stroke, but with no autopsy, the cause of his sepsis was more difficult to confirm.

Gilpin's parents have sued Stinson, five assistant coaches and school administrators in a case set for trial in January.

In the criminal case, Louisville police took statements from Stinson, 89 football players, nine coaches and 25 other witnesses, including parents at a soccer game on an adjacent field.

In the police reports, players and coaches described a routine practice for much of the afternoon watching film, stretching and positional drills. But players told police that after about two hours on the field, Stinson, a former college offensive lineman, became upset over goofing off and a "lack of hustle."

Stinson has said he didn't see the 6-2, 220-pound Gilpin collapse.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman said there was no evidence the players were denied water, and the evidence also points to something other than dehydration as the cause of Gilpin's death.

Stinson is still employed in a non-teaching position. He will remain reassigned pending the outcome of his criminal trial. Berman said if he's cleared, he will eligible to apply for a coaching job again.

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