Kentucky football coach cleared in player’s death

Published 1:49 am Thursday, July 2, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — 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.

An attorney for Gilpin’s mother, Todd Thompson, said the conclusions were not a surprise because the school system has from the beginning sought to exonerate itself and the coaches in the teen’s death. He also called the medical findings ‘‘incorrect.’’

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