Kentucky high school football coach Jason Stinson called his player's death a "tragedy" but will not take responsibility for it, despite a grieving mother's plea for a direct apology.
"I understand her loss," Stinson told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview today. "She lost her son. It's a terrible tragedy ... [but] I cannot sit here today and take responsibility for something I'm not responsible for."
Stinson, 37, was found not guilty last week in a landmark case, the first ever to try a coach for neglectful homicide in the death of a player related to practice workouts.
The teen's mother, Michele Crockett, told CBS's "Early Show" Monday that Stinson should have "stepped up to the plate" and apologized for what happened.
On a scorching day in August 2008, one of Stinson's players at Louisville's Pleasure Ridge Park High School, 15-year-old Max Gilpin, collapsed on the field after running sprints.The boy died three days later in the hospital of organ failure and other heat-related complications.
"People need to understand there's no winner in this case," Stinson said. "It was never Jason Stinson vs. Max Gilpin."
During the trial, Stinson's attorney emphasized the role that Gilpin's medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Adderall, and the nutrition supplement Creatine could have played in the boy's death.
"The lesson we all need to learn from this is we all need to know more about what medication kids are on and what supplements the kids are taking," Stinson's attorney, Brian Butler, said.
Stinson said, "As coaches, we need to know those things. We're trying to make sure this doesn't happen to another family."
Although a civil suit filed by Gilpin's parents against Stinson is pending, Stinson will return to the classroom Thursday and has been given permission by the school district superintendent to coach again.
When Stinson walks back into the school that has stood by him for the more than year-long ordeal, Gilpin won't be far from his mind, Stinson said. The teen was in one of Stinson's classes and used to sit in the first seat of the third row.
"Max is in heaven with Jesus," Stinson said. "That's an awesome thought for me."
During the trial prosecutors said the players were in full gear, and several of them, including Gilpin, were denied water and told to keep running wind sprints -- called "gassers" -- in 94 degree heat, even after vomiting. When Gilpin collapsed, prosecutors said Stinson did nothing and "never got within 10 feet of Max Gilpin."
Prosecutors called the practice "barbaric."
The defense said the boy's death was not Stinson's fault, saying instead that the amphetamine Adderall, the medication that Gilpin was taking to battle attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, caused him to overheat and the workout supplement Creatine also played a role. Gilpin's body temperature reached 107 degrees.
"Amphetimines affect the body's ability to do the thermal regulation," defense attorney Brian Butler said in court Tuesday. "This has been nothing but a witch hunt by these people."
Witnesses also said Gilpin claimed he was feeling sick before practice started and some players testified they were given water before the sprints.
An extensive internal investigation by Jefferson County Public School officials found that the allegation that the players were denied water was "not the case" and that Stinson complied with all state regulations.