A profanity-laced pregame rant by a Tennessee high school football coach has cost him his job and stoked a controversy about what constitutes appropriate motivational language in school sports.
As reported by the Associated Press and Memphis Commercial Appeal, among other sources, Collierville (Tenn.) High football coach Shawn Abel resigned on Tuesday, two days after an aggressive, profane pregame speech he gave to his football team on Friday night was leaked as an audio file on YouTube. You can hear Abel's rant right here, though be warned, it contains a significant amount of offensive language.
While Abel told the Commercial Appeal that he was not specifically asked to resign, the coach offered his resignation when meeting with Collierville principal Dr. Tim Setterlund on Monday after word of the pregame rant's leaking first came to light. Setterlund accepted the coach's offer to step down, though there has been no firm decision on whether he will be allowed to continue in his position as an Advanced Placement calculus and precalculus teacher at the school. As of Wednesday, he had been placed on administrative leave from that position.
For his part, Abel was contrite and apologetic for the pregame rant when interviewed by the Commercial Appeal on Tuesday.
"My initial thought was, 'I can't believe the sanctity of the locker room has been violated,'" Abel told the newspaper. "But I have to be the grown-up in this situation. I have to be smarter. It was a lapse in judgment and I didn't use good judgment.
"My intent in that meeting was to motivate, and my methods were grossly out of line. I offer no excuses for what transpired, only apologies and regret."
While the coach has stepped down, his supporters have not. A 2009 Collierville graduate named Josh Stovall started a Facebook group titled "Support Coach Shawn Abel" on Monday, and the group quickly gained more than 800 members, all of whom called for the school to support its embattled football headman.
"I'm behind Coach Abel 100%," Facebook user Justin Pennington wrote on the page Wednesday morning. "Great Coach, Great Teacher, Great Man & Great Mentor!"
Now, Abel will try to move forward with his teaching career and his life, either at Collierville -- as he hopes -- or at another Memphis area school.
"There are more important things we're trying to teach the kids, especially at this age, and there are a lot of things I do well in the classroom, even on the field," Abel told Memphis ABC affiliate ABC 24. "There are some things that I do not do well. That day was not one of my finer moments.
"It's hard to convince people who are not in sports that there is a major separation between what a coach does on the field and what a classroom teacher does. I have five classrooms in the day, and when you go to the practice field you have to turn things on and off. I try to do that, I feel like, with the exception of that occasion, I felt like I do a good job."
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