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CRYSTAL RIVER — Citrus County School District officials want their coaches to set a positive example for students.
And when coaches cross a line, even with the use of certain language, district officials say they will be punished.
Crystal River High School head football coach Greg Fowler knows that.
Fowler, in his second year as head coach at CRHS, received a 10-day unpaid suspension for his use of foul language during practices and at games.
Fowler, who teaches math, served the suspension between Oct. 29 and Nov. 9.
The suspension became public Tuesday due to state law that delays by 10 days release of a disciplinary report after it is placed in an employee’s file.
“We, here in Citrus County, have taken many steps to ensure our students are not subjected to this type of behavior from our staff members,” Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel wrote to Fowler in his suspension notice.
Fowler, in a written statement to district officials, acknowledged using foul language.
“I have used profanity on occasion during practices,” he wrote on Oct. 22, according to district records. “No comments I made were intended to be abusive, but I cannot speak as to how they are received.”
After starting the season 4-0, the Pirates finished with a 6-4 record after a Friday night win over rival Lecanto. District officials removed Fowler from the team for the final three games and placed him on administrative assignment while they conducted the investigation.
Records show the investigation began when the parent of two players complained to the district about Fowler’s language. The allegations did not include his classroom work.
The report said seven assistant coaches were interviewed separately and they confirmed the allegations of profanity on the football field.
“Six out of the seven coaches expressed concerns for the way Mr. Fowler spoke to groups of players and individual players,” the report states.
Assistant superintendent of schools Mike Mullen said Tuesday the coaches should have alerted authorities of Fowler’s behavior prior to the parent’s complaint.
He said the district plans to notify assistant coaches and teachers they have an obligation to report inappropriate behavior when they see it.
“We’re going to address that district-wide,” Mullen said.
The district interviewed eight players. All said Fowler was a good coach, but that he also used profanity at practice and during games. Six also said Fowler used positive feedback when they did something right.
In an interview Tuesday with the Chronicle, Fowler was apologetic and said he realizes his behavior was inappropriate.
“I brought this upon myself and I don’t blame anyone else,” he said.
Along with the suspension and written reprimand, Himmel ordered Fowler to attend a behavior modification course sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Association.
Mullen said the message is clear.
“We don’t condone that at all,” he said. “We don’t accept it from students or student-athletes, so we’re definitely not going to accept it from coaches.”
Sports writer J.M. Soracchi contributed to this report.