Pine Tree Coach: 'Love people, work hard, the rest doesn't matter'
LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -
The head football coach at Pine Tree ISD says he is back in the game, five days after being put on administrative leave.
The Pine Tree ISD board of trustees met in regular session on Monday night. After deliberating for three hours, trustees supported action for the superintendent to carry out a conditional reinstatement of the coach.
Fitzhenry, who also serves as the school's athletic director, went to his first football practice on Tuesday, since the team's game on August 30th.
"I love these kids and the Pine Tree community and I'm excited about getting back to work," Fitzhenry said.
The coach was accused of having a physical altercation with a student during the team's August 30th game. The district put the coach on administrative leave and would not discuss their investigation.
"Any statements made regarding the issue from unofficial sources are merely speculation," said Vickie Echols, Pine Tree ISD's public information officer.
After their investigation, the district decided to reinstate Fitzhenry as head coach on certain conditions, which they won't reveal.
"We regret that we can't explain more. I understand there are frustrations when you can't understand what's going on. However, we are legally and ethically bound to protect the rights of our employees and our students," Echols said.
Fitzhenry also would not comment on the investigation.
"I mean, it's done. Like I said, why complicate it?"
He says his focus now is to help his players achieve their goals, "You know, love people, work hard, and the rest of it doesn't matter. So, that's what I am going to do. I am not going to worry about all that. I am just going to love these kids, work hard and it will all turn out what's right. God has a plan."
And just because he was off the field doesn't mean he isn't ready for Friday's game.
"I've been watching film and studying things and there have been different people communicating with me," Fitzhenry said at Tuesday night's practice.
He says the pirates are ready to take on Kilgore and he is ready to turn the focus back on his team.
Monday's school board meeting was standing room only as football players, students and parents came in with signs in support of the coach.
The last item on the agenda was to discuss possible disciplinary action for Fitzhenry.
"I feel like everything was just blown out of proportion. What they say happened didn't happen, and I feel like it's just dirty politics trying to get him out of his position," said senior football player, Bryndin Hartman who also spoke at Monday's school board meeting.
"As humans we make mistakes, but the overall good of the school, I do believe he has it at heart," said Cindy Russell, who has a son who plays football for Pine Tree High School.
However, not everyone at Monday night's meeting agreed that Fitzhenry should be reinstated.
"I am also coming tonight to speak on behalf of others who have expressed a reluctance to come or even be seen because they are concerned that their children will be retaliated against should the board decide to stay with the status quo," said a Debbie Garrett, a concerned mother and alumni during the public comment portion of Monday's school board meeting.
"I know that each of you takes your responsibility very seriously. I want to remind you that you ran and were elected to make these difficult decisions even when those decisions may not be perceived with what is popular," she added.
With the majority of those in attendance in support of Fitzhenry, it seems reinstating him was the most popular thing to do and football players said it is for good reason.
"Coach Fitz has been more than just a coach to us. He's brought everybody to game changers, brought us together as a family," Hartman said.
Fitzhenry says he will discuss the situation with his players on Wednesday.