Criminal charge in Arundel football brawl

Assault on teen-ager laid to coach

calls for ouster of rec chief for favoritism

October 02, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

A brawl after a youth football game in Anne Arundel County has led to the dismissal of an assistant coach who allegedly struck a teen-ager, a criminal investigation by police and calls for the resignation of the county's top recreation official.

Mike T. Pivec, 52, of Queenstown has been charged with second-degree assault, accused of hitting Rory Fracasse Jr., a Northeast High School student, injuring the 15-year-old's head and eye socket.

Pivec was an assistant coach of the Cape St. Claire Cougars; Fracasse is the son of the coach of the rival Riviera Beach Buccaneers.

"My son was viciously attacked," Rory Fracasse Sr. said yesterday. "This is totally unacceptable."

Pivec had no comment on the case, a family member said yesterday.

Although Pivec was removed and both head coaches were disciplined, an overwhelming majority of the Anne Arundel County Youth Football Association voted Monday to push for the dismissal of County Recreation and Parks Director Dennis Callahan, who oversees youth football programs.

Some parents are concerned that Callahan, a former Annapolis mayor, helped reduce the penalties against Cougars coach Michael Harris because they are friends.

"He should step down because everyone feels that he hasn't done right," said Ron Lyons, president of the 23-member Youth Football Association, which met late into the night Monday. "There's no confidence in him to run the program."

Lyons said that although displeasure with Callahan has been building, the brawl at the Cougars-Buccaneers game Sept. 14 forced parents to finally take action.

According to witnesses from both teams, the night game, which started out as a match of strength and strategy, quickly escalated into a battle of mean-spirited hits and put-downs. At one point, a Cougars team member allegedly cursed at Bucs coach Fracasse. At the end of the game, some Buccaneers players reportedly blocked the Cougars from exiting the field to the parking lot.

Shortly after 10 p.m., a fight broke out between two teens in the parking lot at Cape St. Claire Park, according to a police report.

Police in their report said Pivec acknowledged striking the boy. Fracasse Jr. plays on the junior varsity football team at Northeast High School in Pasadena but was not participating in the youth football match; he was at the game to help his father.

The senior Fracasse said yesterday that his son was badly injured and that he is scheduled for an MRI later this week. He said his son suffered a concussion and that his eye socket may have been damaged.

"I watched this grown man lean into the crowd and blindside my son," Rory Fracasse Sr. said yesterday. "This is totally unacceptable. ... Anne Arundel County failed to protect my son."

Fracasse called for Callahan's firing. He and others are upset that a county appeals board decision overrode a disciplinary ruling regarding the football fracas. Some say favoritism played a role in that decision.

Initially, Cougars coach Harris was told that he would have to sit out two games. But at a meeting last week, the four-member appeals board lifted those sanctions and placed Harris on one-year probation.

Lyons said that Callahan influenced the board's decision because Harris is a personal friend. Callahan denies that he had any role in the ruling. Harris, who one team mother called "an excellent coach," could not be reached for comment.

Fracasse, the Buccaneers coach, was suspended for two games and placed on probation for a year. A Buccaneers player who acknowledged cursing was suspended for two games.

Pivec has been banned from county sports leagues, county officials said. The coaching positions are volunteer jobs.

Lyons said yesterday that there are more reasons why parents want Callahan gone. He said youth football league commissioners are upset with changes Callahan made recently, including mandatory playing time for all athletes and criminal background checks for coaches.

Callahan, who served as mayor of Annapolis from 1985 to 1989, said he has no intention of leaving his job, which pays $92,297 a year. Callahan, who sent one of his directors to the football association's meeting, said the members were upset about children's playing time.

"Parents were calling and saying that their kids were going to practices and then not being allowed to play during the games," Callahan said yesterday.

He said that since the county began requiring criminal background checks for coaches, 52 out of 3,460 were found to have past convictions; most were football coaches. As a result, some local organizations have had to scramble to fill vacant coaching positions.

Lyons said that some coaches he knew had criminal convictions so old they should not have counted. He said the checks should not affect coaches with minor offenses or offenses that are more than 20 years old.

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