It was three years ago next month, during a football practice at Pleasure Ridge Park High School, that Max Gilpin collapsed and later died. The 15-year-old’s death sparked a national controversy over football coaching methods, drugs and training and the effects of summer heat. The 2009 trial of his coach, Jason Stinson, resulted in an acquittal, but not before Stinson lost his job and spent much of his time, and money, on his own defense.
The community was split between Stinson supporters, who maintained Gilpin’s death was an accident, and those who condemned Stinson, PRP and football in general for what happened. In PRP, rallies were held to raise money for the Coach’s defense, and there was plenty of TV coverage of his support group.
On Saturday, the man who organized Stinson’s support network, and who probably knows more about the case than anyone, will release a book chronicling the story from Stinson’s point of view. At a book signing Saturday at the Crowne Plaza (I’ve been asked to emcee), Rodney Daugherty will host an event with Stinson in which the $25 book will be made available to the public for the first time.
Retired Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Martin Johnstone and former Chief Medical Examiner of Kentucky, Dr, George R. Nichols, II, M.D., will speak.
The $25 hardcover tome is advertised this way: “A shocking insider account about the first ever criminal case brought against a football coach for a player’s death. The account begins on 8/20/2008 and carries the reader beyond the 9/17/2009 verdict.”
The entire story would make for a great movie. I don’t believe Stinson had malicious intent, or that he was doing anything that hundreds of football coaches across the country do to motivate their players. But I also believe that Stinson’s methods of motivation are no longer acceptable. Yes, I can remember running sprints in full gear at Iroquois in 95 degree heat, and being denied water and called names for appearing to be tired. But that was 1977. We’re lucky we didn’t have more kids keel over back then.
Today’s coaches can’t shame their players into shape. They have to provide water, and regular breaks, and can’t hold practices if it’s too hot. And those who don’t change are going to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. I hope, and believe, that Stinson’s case changed the way coaches run practices.
Stinson has survived the ordeal. He’s a decent guy caught up in a terrible tragedy’s aftermath. He has been speaking out around town on the topic of heat-related illnesses, trying to be a positive influence in young people. And he will be an assistant football coach at Iroquois this fall.