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COLUMN: Annville-Cleona should bring back Dave Bentz

I have, unfortunately, felt the need to write my share of columns over the years about high school sports coaches being forced out of their jobs. Usually wrongfully forced out, in my opinion, hence the column rants.

I'm about to write another one. It's something of a pet peeve of mine to see good, committed coaches who positively impact kids dismissed from their positions at the whim of administrators or through parental pressure or both. Quite simply, I find it distasteful and the very opposite of the lessons schools - and sports - are supposed to be teaching kids.

Usually, I write these columns secure in the knowledge - at least in my mind - that there is a villain responsible for undermining the coach in question. Full disclosure: It's more fun that way. You know, good vs. evil and all.

This column is going to be a little different because I don't sense any villainy at hand in the situation at Annville-Cleona with popular softball coach Dave Bentz being asked to resign from his position.

Villainy, no. Overreaction, yes.

If you haven't heard by now, Bentz ran afoul of A-C administrators last month when he loaned his keys to the high school to one of his players for the purpose of playing a good-natured prank on assistant coach Liz Safstrom. The keys later - without Bentz's permission - ended up in the hands of another student, who used them to play a more elaborate but ultimately harmless prank.

First of all, I think we can all agree that in this day and age when school security is of the utmost importance, Bentz made a mistake. Forget that his trust was violated by a player he placed a lot of faith in. That's another matter entirely. The bottom line is high school kids who aren't ready for the responsibility shouldn't have keys to the school building. Under any circumstances. No.

So A-C administrators were understandably upset with Bentz and of the belief that his actions, while completely innocent and with no ill intent, warranted punishment. They're right. Compromising school security is no joke. But they're wrong that the punishment should be to take Bentz away from a job he pours his heart and soul into and from the kids he consistently impacts in a positive manner.

Dock his pay. Suspend him for a game or games next season. Donate, as Bentz himself suggested Thursday night to the school board, all or part of his salary to A-C's Thon fundraising event to fight cancer.

But for the love of God, don't terminate him. No purpose is served, no greater good achieved. And don't get me started on the fact that Bentz is the only one being punished in this whole matter. Yep, the students involved were not disciplined at all, even after one of them apparently asked to be.

Great. So A-C wants to remove a positive role model and mentor from the lives of their student-athletes over an isolated error in judgement while refusing to punish students who consciously broke rules?

Life is full of teachable moments and that's an important one right there, albeit a misguided lesson being taught.

Fortunately, this is a problem that can be fixed.

The A-C administration and school board can give real weight to the heartfelt words spoken by Bentz and his supporters at Thursday's school board meeting. They can pore over the petition that was presented to them with 375 signatures and countless character references for the coach.

And most importantly, they can teach the kids and residents of the Annville-Cleona School District that you can give people who deserve it a second chance and move forward in a positive direction.

Though Bentz refuses to resign, whether he coaches softball again at A-C is not up to him. He must be recommended to the board for re-hire, since coaches are evaluated and either kept or let go on an annual basis.

In short, A-C has to decide whether or not Dave Bentz should still be their softball coach. It's an important decision. Here's hoping the right one is made.