Some Salisbury Football Booster Club members complained to the Salisbury School Board the Salisbury High School varsity football coach had routinely verbally abused the team and undermined morale. Others said parents and their children were afraid to complain because they feared retribution.
Butch Rossetti, president of the booster club, said they have complained about coach Rob Sawicki to the district's athletic director Monica Deeb and other administrators at Salisbury High School, as recently as last week, but were still frustrated.
"We want to make sure our voice is heard. Wins and losses are not the only thing that we were concerned with, we were concerned with treatment," Rossetti said.
"Coaches are mentors to our boys and the decisions they make for our boys last a lifetime," he said. "When they're 50 years old and they're talking about what a great time they had on the football program at Salisbury, that's what I want to hear. I don't want to hear they had such a horrible time. That's the reason we're here," Rossetti said.
Booster club member Kathleen Baugher said the coach called the players derogatory names in the locker room and hallways.
"It breaks my heart to hear what some of these boys have gone through," Baugher said. "I know this is not exactly the correct forum, but I don't know what it is to get everyone to understand that these boys are being influenced for the rest of their lives by people who are supposed to be positive thinkers."
Cindy Steckel, who said she was a concerned grandparent, told the board "there have been some very obnoxious, nasty, foul things said to these boys by coaches, far from appropriate. Someone should investigate."
Board member John Moyer said he considered the booster club's allegations "really serious."
"I look forward an update on that issue and a recommendation," he said.
Attempts to reach Sawicki were unsuccessful. Superintendent Robert Gross said later in an e-mail that he could not comment on specific allegations, citing personnel confidentiality laws. "The administration has always and will steadfastly continue to take all appropriate action relative to any and all issues brought forward regarding any employee in the school district, whether of a negative or positive nature," he wrote.
Sawicki has been a Salisbury High School football coach for eight years and head coach for the last four years. The Falcons football team has had some tough seasons finishing 0-10 last year and and 1-9 this past fall in the Colonial League South. Going into the season, the booster club held a spaghetti dinner in late August to try to boost morale.
Booster club member Dan Mohry, who wants to see a change in the entire football staff, said wanted to know when coaches would be selected for next season "so we can represent the student athletes the way we feel they need to be."
Mohry said later that he was more concerned about getting a coaching staff that could develop leadership and be mentors to the players than he was about the language they use on the field. "I'm looking for somebody who can develop a successful program," he said.
The superintendent said Deeb, Salisbury High School Principal Heather Morningstar and Assistant Principal Bill Dovico will meet shortly after the end-of-season athletic banquets to discuss all athletic coaching positions, which are one-year contracts.
"They will be reviewing the fall season, as they do after each sports season--- fall, winter, spring. Anything they're going to propose in terms of coaching positions will then come to me. I will then share it with the board shortly thereafter after their review," Gross said.
Mohry wanted to know what the criteria is for keeping a coach. "I see a baseball team that is lighting up the board. I see a basketball team that is very, very successful."
Gross said the school abides by criteria established by the National Federation of High School Sports, which governs PIAA sports.
"Suffice to say, it's far more than W's and L's [wins and losses]... We'll take a look at the wins and losses, the interactions, the program ability, the development ability of the program, how the coaching staff is dealing with that. It's a pretty comprehensive set of criteria that is used."