Acquitted Ky. coach: No winners in player's death

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky football coach acquitted last week in the death of a player says there are no winners in what he called a "terrible tragedy."

Former Pleasure Ridge Park High School coach David Jason Stinson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the case was "never Jason Stinson vs. Max Gilpin."

"There are no winners in this case, that's what people have to understand," Stinson said in a phone interview from New York, where he was making the rounds of television talk shows.

A jury deliberated last week for about 90 minutes before finding Stinson not guilty of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment.

Prosecutors argued Stinson ran his players to the point of abuse last August, causing Gilpin, a 15-year-old sophomore offensive lineman, to suffer exertional heatstroke. Gilpin died at a Louisville hospital three days after collapsing of heat stroke, sepsis and multiple organ failure. Stinson's attorneys argued Gilpin was on medication and supplements that affected his body temperature and the practice was not unusual.

Stinson, 37, is set to return to the classroom at Pleasure Ridge Park on Thursday, a week after his acquittal. Gilpin's parents have filed a civil suit against Stinson and several other school officials. The case is scheduled for trial in February 2010.

Because of the civil suit, Stinson declined to speak about the day Gilpin collapsed, but called the teen's death a "terrible tragedy."

"Life will never be normal again. It's something that we'll always remember," Stinson said. "We're not pushing Max to the side."

For nine months, from his indictment in January through his acquittal, Stinson declined to speak publicly. On Tuesday, Stinson said the time was tough as he worried about going to prison.

"I could have spent five years of my life in jail for coaching football," Stinson said.

Changes to Kentucky law came in the months before the trial: Kentucky lawmakers this year passed legislation that led to a four-hour online course for coaches on emergency planning and recognition; temperature-related illnesses; head, neck and facial injuries; and first aid.

Jefferson County Public Schools also now require all athletes and at least one parent to watch a 40-minute video that touches on everything from dietary supplements to bacterial infections. Local high school coaches must attend a seminar on using positive reinforcement when dealing with students.

Stinson applauded the rule changes, saying they will help cut down on the number of fatalities during preseason practices, whether the deaths are heat-related or not.

"Everytime you step on the field, there is a calculated risk you take," Stinson said.

Stinson said he would talk with school officials about returning to a coaching position, though not necessarily a head coaching position.

"I feel called and led by Christ to coach," Stinson said. "I look forward to the day of stepping back on the field with those young folks."

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