BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One strike and he’s out?
A popular high school baseball coach could be stripped of his duties after parents and students said he broke school rules by starting an online fundraiser for the team.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday, years of good old-fashioned car washes and raffles were perfectly acceptable, but the online fundraiser set up by Coach Anthony Sparacio at Babylon High School may have broken district policy.
The Babylon High School baseball players are past Long Island champions. This year, they are favorites to win the state.
And for more than 20 years, physical education teacher Sparacio has been the winning coach. But just as a new turf field of dreams is installed, players are losing sleep over a coaching game changer.
“How can he be punished, and why punish all of the boys as well?” said parent Cindy Chiacchere.
Parents and students said they have learned Sparacio is out – relieved of his coaching duties – because of the online fundraiser that was put up by the coach without board approval.
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for equipment for the small district in short supply of funds to protect the new field.
Informed that the fundraiser violated school district rules, Sparacio took down the site and refunded donations. But sources said applicants are interviewing for his job.
Players are heartbroken.
“I feel outraged. I know some of the others do as well,” said Babylon High School baseball player Kenneth Gordon. “He’s a great person; coach; teacher.”
“All the guys love him as a coach; as a teacher,” said baseball team player Hunter Chiacchere.
Parents of seniors with college prospects are especially concerned, as this is recruitment season.
“He’s an honest, upstanding citizen, and I’m just looking for an answer,” said parent Anthony Vano. “That’s all I’m looking for.”
And yet, the district superintendent cited privacy in personal matters. The district told CBS2, “No appointments have been made for any coaching positions for the upcoming season.”
But players said winter workouts are mysteriously on hold.
Letters of support have poured into the district, asking what the real difference is between GoFundMe and the old raffles or bake sales that teams have done for years.
“We always had the coupon books. We’d go around as a team and try to make money any way we could for the team,” said Babylon High School graduate Kyle Dowling.
“You can trace money over the Internet much easier than you can the old-fashioned way, when we were doing car washes and selling products and collecting cash,” added Vano.
The coach was also barred by district policy from talking to the media because of school district policy. Parents said they will speak out for him — pleading for his position – at a school board meeting Monday night.