Lincoln football coach Tom Mihalovich and two of his varsity assistants have been pulled from the sideline while Des Moines Public Schools officials investigate an incident involving a former player.
Mihalovich declined Wednesday to discuss what led to his suspension and that of assistants Kevin Johnston and Larry Gamblin.
Des Moines Public Schools spokesman Phillip Roeder said an investigation conducted by the school’s human resources staff is ongoing.
At the center of the investigation is former Lincoln sophomore player Dante Campero, who is now enrolled at Dowling Catholic, according to his mother’s Facebook page.
Campero was apparently disciplined by the coaches for a negative comment he made about the Lincoln varsity team on Twitter.
On Friday, while No. 2 Ankeny defeated the Railsplitters 56-27, the account listed with Campero’s name tweeted: “That’s why I don’t go to lincoln game, because they get (expletive) destroyed by anyone whose half decent.”
The tweet was later deleted and Campero posted a series of messages that included an apology and trepidation for what he might face in practice.
“Sorry if I offended anyone on the Lincoln varsity team,” a message posted at 8:40 a.m. Saturday read. ” I know you guys work hard and put in the effort every day. It was a stupid comment.”
“And I deserve every punishment I receive.”
On Sunday morning, a message from Campero’s account read: “I’m gonna have to run so much tomorrow. I deserve it tho.”
It was unclear Wednesday how long or how far Campero had to run in practice after criticizing his teammates, but one Lincoln player said the punishment was nothing out of the ordinary.
“It was one of the basic things we do if we get out of line,” said senior offensive lineman Brendon Bolokor. “It was nothing too bad. (Campero) quit. The coaches didn’t tell him to quit, he quit on his own. That’s all I want to say.”
Bolokor said he thinks Mihalovich is getting a raw deal for Campero’s punishment.
Mihalovich released a 156-word statement that said his suspension was “unexpected and disappointing.” He also wrote “it would be inappropriate to make additional comments at this time.”
“What I can tell you is that for 12 years I have devoted my life’s work to building a proud and strong football program at Lincoln,” he wrote. “I am known to be a tough but fair coach when there is an infraction or when athletes do not follow team rules.
“I will cooperate fully with the district and Lincoln High School officials and look forward to resolving this matter and returning to Lincoln to finish out a strong season.”
Mihalovich has compiled a 57-51 record at Lincoln. The Railsplitters have reached the state playoffs in six of the last seven seasons.
Lincoln started the season 0-2 after losing to Johnston and Ankeny, a pair of teams that started the season in the top 10 in Class4-A.
Defensive coordinator Joe Bianchi has been named interim coach for the Railsplitters, who play host to Roosevelt Friday night.
When contacted Wednesday evening, Campero handed the phone off to a woman who identified herself as his mother.
“I cannot talk right now,” she said. “We have legal counsel and you have to talk to them.”
However, Mary Kay Price-Walker, who is identified on Facebook as Campero’s mother, sounded off Monday on her Facebook page.
“I have never been more disgusted at a human being in my entire life,” she wrote, not naming any individuals. “My family has learned a tremendous lesson in life today and believe me it will not be a benefit to that heartless coward. F-A-M-I-L-Y learn the definition! Lord, please do not allow our enemies to speak lies of us. Amen.”
Price-Walker posted another status update on Tuesday about her son’s departure from Lincoln: “Well today my family and I will be leaving a big part of our lives behind us and moving forward to bigger and brighter things. I’m so proud of my son and I know that God works in mysterious ways and this will all be worth it in the end. Welcome to Dowling Catholic Dante and may all your dreams become reality! I love you.”
Mihalovich released a statement Wednesday afternoon that reads as follows:
Yesterday I was given notice of my immediate suspension as head coach of the Lincoln High School football team by the Des Moines Public School District. This decision was unexpected and disappointing. Out of respect for Des Moines Public Schools’ processes and procedures, it would be inappropriate for me to make additional comments at this time. What I can tell you is that for twelve years I have devoted my life’s work to building a proud and strong football program at Lincoln. I am known to be a tough but fair coach when there is an infraction or when athletes do not follow team rules. I will cooperate fully with the district and Lincoln High School officials and look forward to resolving this matter and returning to Lincoln to finish out a strong season. Until this time I ask that you respect my privacy as well as that of my family and student athletes. Thank you. – Tom Mihalovich
CAMPERO FAMILY SPOKESPERSON STATEMENT
Gary Dickey, Campero family spokesperson, released this statement on Wednesday night regarding the Des Moines Public School District’s investigation into Lincoln coaching staff:
(DES MOINES) – Last Friday night, former Lincoln High School sophomore football player Dante Campero made a comment on Twitter critical of the varsity team’s performance on the field. The next morning he immediately removed the posting at the request of a coach and apologized for the remark.
On Monday, Dante was pulled from the sophomore practice and ordered by the varsity coaching staff to take off his helmet and personally repeat the comment to the varsity football team members. Not surprisingly, Dante’s remarks were met with hostility from the upperclassmen. Thereafter, members of the coaching staff ordered Dante to run for the remainder of the practice and hollered at him that he should transfer to another school. When he informed his coaches that he was physically unable to run any longer, Dante was permanently dismissed from the team.
Following practice, the Campero family began to receive threatening comments causing them to fear for Dante’s safety. As a result, they decided to enroll him in a different school. As life-long residents of the south side, Dante and the Campero family are deeply disappointed that transferring from Lincoln was necessary.
On Tuesday, Dante’s family alerted district officials of the incident and were informed that this was not the only complaint concerning player discipline. The Campero family encourages current and former players to contact Des Moines Public School District at 515.242.8153 if they have information relevant to the pending investigation.