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Tuesday, September 30
 
'They know that they let me down'

Associated Press

MINEOLA, N.Y. -- Mepham High School football coach Kevin McElroy said Tuesday he was "shocked" by allegations that members of his varsity squad sexually abused younger players and said he wasn't told of the alleged attacks until five days after returning from a Pennsylvania training camp.

McElroy also said that although no charges have been filed, "I believe that it did happen."

Speaking about the allegations for the first time since they were revealed in early September, and with his attorney at his side, McElroy said he is "devastated about what happened ... we took every possible precaution."

Investigators in Wayne County, Pa., are reviewing claims that members of the Bellmore, N.Y., football team sodomized younger players with a broomstick, pine cones and golf balls during a five-day trip in late August to the Camp Wayne for Girls, in Preston Park, Pa.

Wayne County District Attorney Mark Zimmer issued a dozen subpoenas for the coaches, principal John Didden and six players to testify before a grand jury. Zimmer said on Monday, however, that witnesses who were initially reluctant to testify are now cooperating and it may not be necessary for them to formally appear before the grand jury.

McElroy, who began by reading a statement of sympathy to the victims, said he and his coaches were the ones who recommended that the entire eight-game football season be canceled in response to the allegations. No games were played.

"We don't just teach athletics out there," said McElroy, who has been the team's head coach for 17 years. "We're teachers and educators, and it's important for people to do the right thing. The right thing has not been done here."

He said players who knew about the attacks but failed to report them violated the school's Code of Conduct.

"Most of them, and I will say most of them, knew about what happened," McElroy said. "I'm not saying they witnessed it. That I can't say. I wasn't there."

He said the players, all boys, had "a responsibility to report it, at the very least to the coaching staff, and do the right thing. And instead they chose to hide it from us and they did the wrong thing."

He insisted that he and his assistants were unaware of any hazing. About 60 players shared five cabins at the camp, while the coaches stayed in a separate cabin.

McElroy also said that during the alleged attacks, the coaches heard "no screaming."

"There was no noise," he said. "There was nothing to give us any hint of what was going on."

He said that despite some calls for his resignation, he had no intention of quitting. He said of those calling for him to resign: "I don't think they know all the facts about the case. I don't think they know all the facts about what we did."

McElroy said players were given a list of rules about their behavior at camp, including warnings against hazing, smoking, drinking alcohol or leaving the campgrounds. He said the players and their parents signed agreements that said "if their behavior was inappropriate at camp they would be sent home."

The coach joined those urging anyone with information to come forward. The social studies teacher said some of his players are in his classes in school but none has spoken with him about the scandal.

"I talk about doing right and wrong and how it's impacted the entire community, how these victims are going to be scarred for life," McElroy said. "They listen, but they don't come up to me, and I can't answer why. I'm not in their heads. I can't speculate."

He said school policy has prevented him from contacting the victims' families, but if given the chance, "I would say I'm sorry for not being able to take care of your son, but we tried everything in our power to do it."

The coach said of his players, "They know that they let me down."




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