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On Monday, Cheshire High School girl's soccer coach Tony Crane offered his resignation, officially ending his time as head of the program.
On Thursday, more than 60 residents packed the Council Chambers at Cheshire Town Hall to ask the Board of Education and school administrators to reinstate Crane before the beginning of next season.
Crane's resignation, which was requested by Cheshire High School Principal Kevin Ryan and Athletic Director Steve Trifone, came on the heels of a controversial e-mail regarding the district's policy when it comes to underage drinking by students.
On Oct. 31, Cheshire police broke up a Halloween party where drinking was occurring. As such, nine students were issued “10-9” infractions, which carries with it a $135 fine. However, if a student athlete, or any student participating in a school activity, is issued a “10-9,” they are subject to punishment by the school as well. For a first offense, the student is suspended from activities for three weeks or six contests, whichever comes first. For a second offense, the student is suspended for 180 days and for a third offense the student is suspended from the activity permanently.
In response to the punishment, Tom and Dyan Dupont, whose daughter was issued an infraction at the party and was subsequently suspended for her last soccer game of the season, questioned the severity of the punishment and sent out an e-mail to other parents and school officials speaking out against the policy.
In response, Crane sent an e-mail of his own, where he also expressed his desire to see the policy changed and used harsh language to describe it.
That note led to a request by school administrators for Crane's resignation.
At Thursday's meeting, parents, players, and colleagues of Crane made their plea to the Board of Education to do what was necessary to bring Crane back.
“These kids will always tell you (Crane) is there for them,” said Wendy Stauffer, whose daughter played for Crane. “That's why we are all here for him.”
Stauffer was the first of what would be numerous individuals who stood in support of Crane. Stating that she was there to represent “what is best for the students,” Stauffer lauded Crane as a coach and spoke about how her daughter enjoyed her time with the team.
“If my daughter could practice every day with that team, and coach Crane, she would,” said Stauffer. “As a mom, I have seen the ramifications this action has had on our children.”
Alan McWhirter has coached junior soccer players in town for decades and has worked closely with Crane for many years. McWhirter mentioned that, if Crane had committed a different, more serious violation, he would not stand and support him.
“If he did what the football coach in Southington did, I would not be here today,” said McWhirter. “But, Tony didn't do that. He made a mistake. He deserves a reprimand and he deserves to offer you all an apology. However, the kids deserve a coach like Tony Crane.”
Casey Nowakowski played for Crane during her time at CHS, having graduated last year. She also urged administrators to reconsider allowing Crane to leave.
“He has a rare understanding that teenage girls need to be coached in a certain way,” said Nowakowski. “His resignation obviously affects him, but it also has ramifications on future generations of players.”
Almost all who spoke in defense of Crane admitted that the coach had made a mistake in going public with his comments, which Crane has stated was an “accident,” as he meant only to respond to the Dupont family and not to everyone on the list. Robin Harding became emotional when speaking about Crane, and stated that his mistake did not warrant his resignation.
“How many of you can say you have never sent an e-mail you regretted?” Harding asked. “It was an unfortunate mistake and many have made a mistake of their own in the past.”
After the meeting, Ryan spoke about how pleased he was that so many people decided to turn out to make their opinions known, and congratulated the students who spoke for presenting themselves in such a professional manner.
However, Ryan commented that, in his opinion, the decision to “part ways” with Crane remained a closed case.
“This was never about his character or his ability to coach,” said Ryan. “I think it is important to get that out there and on the record. We owe it to him. However, this was a significant lapse in judgement and it couldn't be overlooked.”
Ryan insisted that he and Trifone did not act right away, after the e-mails were received, describing their deliberations as “thoughtful.” However, ultimately, they decided that it was best if “we all parted ways.”
Crane was given the option of remaining on until the end of the season, which he did, because Ryan stated he believed that would be in the best interest of the team.
When asked whether the decision to request Crane's resignation stemmed solely from the incident involving the e-mail, Ryan admitted that there had been another incident in which Crane had used “poor judgement” and was spoken to by administrators. However, he insisted that e-mail was enough to warrant such action.
“The outcome would have been no different, even if this had been the only incident,” said Ryan.