Exclusive: Coach Says 'No Winner' in Player Death Verdict

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.

Though Stinson tearfully accepted the not guilty verdict, he still faces a civil suit filed by Gilpin's parents.

"Our objective is that this doesn't happen to another child or another family," Crockett told reporters last week.

Stinson: 'I Lost One of My Boys'

"I lost one of my boys, a boy that I loved and a boy that I cared for," Stinson said during a January vigil outside his home organized by his supporters.

Stinson was the first high school coach ever charged with homicide for allegedly working a player to death, but athletes collapsing and dying during the tough summer football workouts are practically an annual occurrence.

An average of four to five athletes have died of heat-related problems every summer for the last 10 years, according to Michael Bergeron, the director of the National Institute for Athletic Health and Performance and Center for Youth Sports and Health, and a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of South Dakota's Sanford School of Medicine.

But he said the problem goes far beyond the four or five who die each year, because countless other young athletes have serious heat-related injuries or problems. But because these other episodes are not fatal, they get little attention.

The most recent case may be Brent Shinn McGhee, a 13-year-old San Antonio boy who died Aug. 25, the day after his first practice for the Vernon Middle School football team held in temperatures of more than 100 degrees.

"Putting kids through this to win a football game, it makes no sense," Brent's father, Brock McGhee, told The Associated Press. He said he believes the heat was at least partly the cause of his son's death but said he did not blame the coaches.

Prosecutors said Stinson had been unusually brutal during the practice before Gilpin collapsed, denying Gilpin water and using peer pressure to push his players. He often forced players to keep running until one of them quit, they said.

"A reasonable person should have seen that [a death] could have happened," Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney Dave Stengel said.

Cause of Football Player's Death Disputed

A Jefferson County Public Schools report on Gilpin's death, issued July 1, said Stinson threatened to make his players run wind sprints until somebody quit the team but concluded he did not break district rules.

Despite that finding, Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman said, "Such motivational tools are not acceptable."

Dr. William Smock, the head of emergency medicine at the University of Louisville hospital, who has been a frequent prosecution expert witness for the past 25 years, also told prosecutors in March that he believed Gilpin's death was an accident.

Guilty or not, schools and coaches nationwide paid close attention to this case. Nearly a dozen coaches' organizations donated money for Stinson's defense, fearing what a guilty verdict might do to high school sports programs across the country.

"In the days to come, we're going to have a difficult time finding people to coach if situations like this arise," said Mike O'Donnell, a high school football coach in White Plains, N.Y.

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