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Coach gets two-game suspension for cemetery speech

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Less than a week after a graveyard incident caused a stir in the small town of Marcellus, N.Y., the junior varsity football coach who intended for his impromptu motivational speech to inspire his team offered to resign from his post, only to be kept on with the understanding that he would serve a two-game suspension.

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Marcellus football team

Marcellus football team

In a statement read to his players and their parents and later released to the press, Marcellus (N.Y.) High junior varsity football coach Jim Marsh apologized for his misguided attempt to inspire his team, in which he stopped at a nearby cemetery and allegedly had his players lay on graves while he delivered a fiery inspirational speech.

"The coach offered to resign, but instead we accepted the two-game suspension without pay," Marcellus superintendent Jim Marsh told Prep Rally on Friday. "He'll return for the last two games and has made an offer of his own accord to donate his remaining pay to the St. Xavier Parish church for upkeep for the cemetery [where the incident occured].

"This was a spur of the moment attempt to give a motivational speech. Coach Marsh has certainly had a lot of critics that it was done on sacred ground, but he also has a lot of supporters who understand that he was trying to motivate the team after a tough loss to a local rival."

Marsh's attempt to spark his team backfired, with players complaining about the incident to their parents and those parents then reaching out to school authorities, who investigated the incident over the course of the week and eventually determined that the episode was a simple mistake on the part of a long serving professional in the district.

While Marsh (who also teaches advanced English classes at Marcellus High) was apologetic in his official statement, his passion for trying to inspire the best performance out of his teams -- he is also the school's varsity basketball coach -- rang through his statement's later stages.

I also regret -- and now apologize to the team and parents for the choice of venue -- having offended anyone by my unfortunate decision. I always act on behalf of my students, my players, and my community. Marcellus is home to myself and my family.

I do not regret the core of passion and values which has allowed me to succeed in the teaching profession, and coaching is nothing but authentic teaching. I do not regret the message of asking players and students to give all that they have for themselves, their peers, and their community. I do not regret telling my students, my players, to be resilient when faced with challenges, to accept the responsibility for your actions, and to handle these things with class and dignity. I can certainly do no less than this when faced with adversity.

The Marcellus junior varsity team can now finally move on to focus back on the field, where it will be coached by the squad's assistant coaches for its next two upcoming games. After that, Marsh will be back where he belongs, on a sideline -- just as he will be for the upcoming varsity basketball season -- and out of the cemetery.

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