Friday Night Rights: Trial of Coach in Player’s Death May Change High School Athletics

Referee-type-whistle-CS19Michael McCann of Sports Law Blog and SI.com, has an interesting piece on Commonwealth of Kentucky v. David Jason Stinson, in which former high school football coach Jason Stinson is set to begin trial today in connection with the death of one of his players during practice.

McCann writes that this case – in which Stinson faces felony charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment – could set an important precedent in high school athletics.  High schools may be forced to institute more extensive, not to mention expensive, safeguards:

[i]f Stinson is convicted or pleads guilty to a lesser offense that carries a prison sentence, his case could produce major changes in high school football and high school sports in general. It could, for instance, compel high school coaches and school districts to treat players with much more care, and to provide them with added safeguards, such as ensuring that trainers are on-hand at all times, that coaches have undergone extensive sensitivity training, and that purportedly harsh practice conditions (e.g., denying a player water at any time; ordering sprints in hot and humid conditions) be eliminated. Practices could thus become more safe though also more regulated and potentially more costly, including for the taxpayers who fund local sports.

In addition, McCann discusses the potential for more invasive health testing for players, and something that Connecticut Sports Law has scratched the surface of – whether a number of factors, including legal liability, have made the coaching profession less desirable.  (See Litigation and Little League).

Stinson’s case may also force coaches and school districts to condition the playing of sports on players’ passage of rigorous, possibly invasive health tests. While players are already subject to physicals, the prospect of criminal sanction and prison time accompanying the death of a player may spur coaches to demand greater certainty of players’ physical health. In that same vein, the profession of high school football coaching may take a hit. If a player’s death on the practice field can lead to a coach facing criminal prosecution, the profession suddenly becomes a much less attractive one. The added possibility of tort liability under a wrongful death civil claim only amplifies that point.

Click here to read McCann’s piece in its entirety.

Stay tuned for more coverage on Connecticut Sports Law of Stinson’s trial and the effect of this case on high school athletics.

Comments

  1. Bob Jennings says:

    Hopefully, this will force schools to look into mistreatment of players in all sports. It is especially widespread in smaller towns where, if the coach is a super macho type–he demands the same of the players–no matter what the stage of physical developement the player is in.

  2. I’ve followed this case from the beginning on my blog, Your Kid’s Not Going Pro (older stories at http://www.yourkidsnotgoingpro.wordpress.com, more recent stuff at http://www.trueslant.com/bobcook). I’m no lawyer, but I’ve stated consistently that I have a hard time seeing Stinson being convicted of anything, no matter how much a jerk he might have been.

    First, the prosecution’s case is weak, and I think it knows it. I talked to a lawyer in Kentucky who said the addition of a wanton endangerment charge is a sign that it’s not sure a reckless homicide conviction is possible.

    Second, the prosecution has pulled the stunt of not turning over certain evidence until right before trial — of course, the evidence that its go-to expert said Max Gilpin’s death had more to do with how Adderall mixed with the heat than actual dehydration.

    Fortunately, a lot of coaches are already taking heed and, at the least, not pulling the stunt of denying water. But while the death is a terrible tragedy, I have to wonder if this is going to be a high-profile flop for the prosecution.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Friday Night Rights: Trial of Coach in Player’s Death May Change High School Athletics […]

  2. […] Trial of Coach in Player’s Death May Change High School Athletics […]

  3. […] Friday Night Rights: Trial of Coach in Player’s Death May Change High School Athletics […]

  4. […] Sports Law posts covering heat related issues in high school athletics including the tragic case of Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Jason David Stinson, the first reported criminal case brought against a coach in connection with a player’s on-field […]

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