Community pleads to keep Central football coach
This story was updated to reflect that the school board opened the floor for an initial public comment session after the first reorganizational meeting. A second public comment session was held after the planning meeting.
Amid rumors that longtime Central York football and boys' volleyball coach Brad Livingston could be let go in the coming days, roughly 50 to 60 Panther alumni, former players and former assistant coaches attended Monday night's school board meeting.
And after three hours of budget talk and tax discussions during Central's planning meeting, the restless crowd of Livingston supporters took the opportunity to speak to the board during public comment. One by one, each person stepped up to the microphone and endorsed Livingston's character. He changed lives, they told the board. He deserved better, they said.
"I'm a little embarrassed to be a part of the Panther family this evening," said Rob Davenport, who coached and taught at Central for 12 years. "That we would treat someone who has dedicated their life to the Panther family and this district the way that we're treating him, I just can't shake that feeling of embarrassment. ... If you asked me to make a list of people who were influential in my life and my career, I would put him on the list with just my father."
At the end of the reorganization meeting and before the planning meeting was scheduled to start, board President Eric Wolfgang opened the floor for public comment, acknowledging the crowd and the reason for their attendance. He read a prepared statement indicating the board would not take any action at Monday's meeting and would not respond to questions or comments made during the public comment portion, although attendees would be free to speak at that point or during a second public comment session after the planning meeting.
Wayne Tribue, Jon Urey and Dave Cunningham were among others who addressed the board during the second public comment session.
"Everyone from this area knows Coach Livingston and knows what kind of person he is," Tribue told the board members. "You can't just replace someone like him."
"He was unbelievable with kids, they look up to him," said Cunningham, who coached with Livingston for 12 years. "If you guys want him to go, send him out in a celebratory way and let him end his career at Central on a good note. That would be the respectful way to do it after so many years of coaching here, not telling him in a backroom deal."
Each person urged the board to reconsider any thoughts of letting the coach go. Livingston has been the head football coach for 34 years and has won 10 YAIAA Division I titles and reached the district playoffs 10 times. To put Livingston's longevity in perspective: He has been the Panthers' head coach for more than twice as long as Jon DeFoe of Bermudian Springs, who is next in seniority in the league.
In addition to football, Livingston has coached the boys' volleyball team for 15 seasons and won two PIAA Class AAA championships. But it's what he does off the field and court that makes him great, Lisa Haas said.
"The sole reason we moved into this district was Livingston," Haas said. "This man is more than just a football team. He has character. He is a human being. And the way that he has been treated is unbelievable. ... The fact that you would even consider getting rid of such a remarkable man is unbelievably sad. ... He made my son's dreams come true."
Haas' son Tucker, who was the inspiration behind "Tucker's Team" at Central York, brought several in the crowd to tears when he credited Livingston with helping him through his childhood fight with cancer.
"I don't know where I'd be in my life right now without this man," a tearful Haas said of Livingston. "This man is like a second father to me. He has given me so many opportunities in life. My dream has always been to play football for Brad Livingston. ... I'm thankful for what he means in my life. I have friends because of him. Without him in my life, I would just be another person. He made me so much better."
Junior Brooke Dubbs, who has been a football manager for two seasons, told the board Livingston always made sure she was doing all right after her mother died earlier this year.
"You don't come across people like him," Dubbs said. "I always looked up to him. He was my motivation to keep going and still be the best I can be. He has the character you want to see in every person you meet."
Word spread on social media in the week leading up to the meeting that there was a possibility Livingston could be let go. Former players urged the community to attend Monday's meeting to show their support for him.
Central York Supt. Michael Snell declined to comment.
Here is the full text of Wolfgang's statement:
"The Central York School District Board of School Directors and Administration are aware that there are a number of individuals in attendance who are or may be concerned with a personnel matter involving the athletic program and,specifically, the head football coaching position within Central York School District.
"I want to make clear that the board has not made any decision that would affect the football program; additionally no decision will be made at tonight’s meeting, nor is there any current plan to take action at any public meeting in the near future. All that I am prepared to say is that there have been some concerns expressed by various stakeholders and those concerns are currently the subject of investigation.
"Second, as a matter of law and as a matter of policy, please be aware that neither the board nor the administration will engage in public discussion of confidential personnel matters. Accordingly, while the rights of citizens to make public comment in an orderly and appropriate way will certainly be respected, neither the board nor the administration will respond to questions or comments that may be made."