The head of Anne Arundel County's Recreation and Parks Department has asked staff members to develop a plan to reorganize the county's youth football program in the aftermath of a vicious post-game brawl during which an adult coach is accused of hitting a teen-ager in the face.
Recreation and Parks Director Dennis Callahan said yesterday that his decision was made before Monday, when members of the Anne Arundel County Youth Football Association voted to demand his immediate resignation because of what they say is favoritism and mismanagement on his part.
Members of the association, in response to the fight, ruled that the coaches for Cape St. Claire and Riviera Beach sit out two games and be put on a year's probation.
But an appeals board of county recreation employees reversed that decision for the one coach who objected, angering the group, which claims Callahan was behind the reversal.
The association's move to cancel a Sept. 28 game between a Maryland City team and the Cape St. Claire team angered Callahan, who said the group was overstepping its authority.
"Over the last several years, [the association] has usurped power," he said yesterday. "They started doing things that they don't have the power to do."
Specifically, he said the group, which consists of representatives of 23 youth football leagues, has ignored a minimum-play policy that states that all athletes must compete during organized matches.
Callahan added that the football commissioners are upset because two of their own have had to quit coaching because of past criminal convictions that showed up during recent background checks.
Out of 52 coaches in all sports detected with prior convictions countywide, 39 of those were football coaches, Callahan said.
But members of the football association said that Callahan, a former mayor of Annapolis, was trying to get back at them for drawing attention to problems within the county Recreation and Parks Department.
"I wouldn't put anything past him," said Youth Football Association President Ron Lyons. "There's nothing wrong with the program; it's the director that's the problem."
Rick Peacock, association vice president, said he and other commissioners are displeased with how Callahan has managed the football program.
He said Callahan has allowed certain coaches to sidestep the association's code of ethics, which states that coaches must control their players, fans and assistant coaches at all times.
"We feel that the system is flawed," Peacock said.
Much of the debate got its start at a Sept. 14 night game between the Cape St. Claire Cougars and the Riviera Beach Buccaneers.
After the game, a fight broke out in the parking lot. During the tussle, Cougars assistant coach Mike T. Pivec, 52, allegedly hit Rory Fracasse Jr., 15, in the face. Fracasse's father, Rory Fracasse Sr., is the Buccaneers coach. The son is not a member of the father's team.
Pivec was arrested that same night by county police and charged with second-degree assault. A police report states that Pivec admitted that he hit the teen-ager. Pivec's attorney, Michael L. May of Glen Burnie, disputed those facts yesterday. May said his client was trying to break up the fight. (Pivec has since been banned from county sports leagues, officials said.)
After the Youth Football Association issued its ruling against both head coaches, Cape St. Claire's Michael Harris appealed the decision to county recreation officials, who work under Callahan's supervision. They dropped his two-game suspension. The Buccaneers coach did not appeal the decision.
Members of the football association said that Callahan, who is a friend of Harris, intervened in the appeals process. Callahan denied the allegations.
Callahan stressed his objection to the group's decision to cancel the Sept. 28 game between the Maryland City team and the Cougars.
"When the youth of our county are robbed of a positive recreation experience because of adults making poor decisions and allowing personal disputes to affect the play of young athletes, something is wrong," Callahan said in a letter he sent to Maryland City parents.
Bob Ciancaglini, president of the Cape St. Claire Recreation Council, which oversees the football program, said yesterday that the commissioners' recent actions were upsetting.
"If you have a problem with the county," he said, "don't use my ... kids as pawns in your political play."