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Barons football coach resigns

St. Petersburg Catholic's Dan Mancuso steps down from a program reeling after FHSAA sanctions.

By BOB PUTNAM and JOE SMITH
Published September 27, 2006


 

ST. PETERSBURG - St. Petersburg Catholic High football coach Dan Mancuso resigned Monday, leaving a program that recently was penalized for recruiting violations and illegal practices.

The resignation was effective immediately and comes five days before the school will appeal the Florida High School Athletic Association's ruling.

Mancuso's wife, Ann Marie Mancuso, will remain SPC's athletic director.

The news shocked players and administrators, including Father John Serio, the school's principal, who said the coach was not forced to step down.

Mancuso told his players during a film session, SPC senior Devon Turner said.

"I didn't see it coming," Turner said Tuesday after school. "I took it personally, because I've known Coach for (a long time) and he's like a father figure to me.

"It hurt a lot of us."

Approached as he left the school Tuesday afternoon, Mancuso declined to comment, referring to a prepared statement. "I have 708 personal reasons why I am resigning," Mancuso said in the statement. "The students of this school are always first, not just those that are athletes."

Longtime assistant Mike Lynch was named interim coach for the 1-4 Barons. Lynch stepped in as coach for a playoff game in 2003 when Mancuso was unable to attend due to a death in the family. In an interview with the Times on Tuesday, Serio said Mancuso "realized this was time." Mancuso told Serio "he felt it was the best thing to do for the school."

Mancuso, a non-teaching coach, was an SPC assistant for five seasons before taking over the program from Todd St. Louis in 1995.

Mancuso is the school's all-time coaching leader with 71 victories and has guided the Barons to seven playoff appearances.

"(Dan) was a hard worker who was really aggressive in getting kids into college," St. Louis said.

But the beleaguered coach and his embattled program have come under fire for several years due to recruiting.

- In 1998, SPC had six transfers move into starting positions. One of those players told then-St. Petersburg coach Dusty Boylson that his youth football coach had contacted him about playing for SPC.

- In 2000, SPC was reprimanded, fined $250 and placed on administrative probation for one school year after improper contact with a Gibbs player.

- In 2001, the school was fined $2,500 and placed on restrictive probation and ineligible for postseason play after it was found that Dixie Hollins and Northeast students were recruited by Shannon Brooks, now the coach at Canterbury. The school remained on administrative probation through the 2003-04 school year.

The problems surrounding the football program, fueled by the FHSAA's latest investigation, culminated in May when the organization fined SPC $13,000 and banned it from the playoffs for three years after finding the program guilty of three counts of recruiting and four counts of illegal practices.

Mancuso remained as coach through the spring and the first five games this season.

Two FHSAA board members said it is unclear whether Mancuso's resignation will have any impact on the appeal, set for Sunday at 2:40 p.m. in Gainesville.

FHSAA associate commissioner "Sonny Hester has come out and said the more schools do in-house cleaning, the less the FHSAA has to do," said Clearwater Central Catholic athletic director Bob Cotter, a board member for four years. "As to whether Mancuso's resigning at this point in time makes a statement as far as what the school is going to do, I don't know."

Some coaches were curious about the timing.

"My question is why now?" Dixie Hollins coach Mike Morey said regarding the resignation. "It's too little, too late. (Mancuso) could have done the school a favor by doing this right away and not quitting on them in the middle of the season."

It just makes it tougher on their kids, especially when they're 1-4 and playing Tampa Catholic in a big game this week."

Despite the criticism, Mancuso had many supporters, who admired him for his commitment to the school and its students.

"I think he has done a lot of good for a lot of kids," Serio said. "Not just kids who play football."

DAN MANCUSO'S RECORD

1995 3-7

1996 1-8

1997 5-6

1998 7-3

1999 7-3

2000 8-4

2001 9-1

2002 6-5

2003 7-4

2004 9-2

2005 8-4

2006 1-4

TOTAL 71-51