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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
St. Petersburg Catholic principal Father John Serio said he wanted an athletic director who could "enhance the image of our program and relations in the wider community."
Serio appeared to land his perfect PR match Thursday, hiring John Gerdes, a long-time USF administrator with thick Barons bloodlines to boot.
Gerdes, 45, spent the past 20 years in USF's sports information department, serving as the go-between with media, athletes coaches and administrators. Serio said what also made Gerdes stand out from the other handful of finalists was that the 1980 SPC alumnus could "have the tremendous gift" of giving back to his alma mater, one which has been stained publicly the past few years by football program violations.
"The school motto is 'strength and unity' and those are the pillars I have always believed in," Gerdes said. "Spending my entire professional career in athletics, I know we have to build those relationships in the community - and athletics is just part of it."
Gerdes replaces Ann Marie Mancuso, whom Serio asked to step down after this past school year and will be reassigned. In May 2006, the FHSAA levied SPC's football program with a three-year postseason ban and $13,000 fine for three counts of recruiting and four counts of illegal practices. SPC appealed to the FHSAA board of directors twice, getting denied both times.
But in the school's last appeal in May, denied by a 7-6 vote, the board told FHSAA commissioner John Stewart he could re-assess the Barons' penalty after associate commissioner Sonny Hester makes an oncampus visit.
That visit is scheduled for Monday, which Gerdes plans to attend. Gerdes said he is trying to learn FHSAA policies as "fast as I can," though he said they were similar to NCAA compliance issues.
Gerdes' last official day at USF is Aug. 3, which is 20 years to the date of when he started as USF sports information director in 1987. But, in a way, he said he is coming home to a place he's very much invested in. Gerdes grew up in St. Petersburg, where his parents both live. Three of his siblings along with three nephews and two nieces graduated from SPC, with both his sons, Kyle (14) and Cody (13) plan to wear Barons black and gold.
"John has that pride in (SPC) and all the characteristics to do a great job there," USF athletic director Doug Woolard said. "He's got integrity, the work ethic. He relates well with students and coaches.