A huge crowd turned out for Tuesday night's South Middleton School Board meeting to support high school wrestling coach Rodney Wright.
Wright was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly having a pot pipe in his coat. He has been suspended without pay for the first quarter of the school year.
The anticipated big crowd prompted the board to move the meeting to the high school auditorium.
The wrestlers and their parents are afraid the board will eventually vote to suspend Wright for at least a year. Many don't want that.
"We love both him and the program he has worked so hard to build," said Scott Murphy, who has one son that has wrestled under Wright and another that is still on the team. "We ultimately want to care about the decision you make on his behalf because we love our children even more."
"We share your concerns in the importance of having the right leaders in place for our programs," said board President Thomas Merlie.
The district and the board have not commented specifically on the situation, but Merlie did speak around it.
"No decisions have been made by the board regarding coaching positions for the winter sports season and no such decisions will be made tonight," Merlie said.
After Murphy left the podium to a standing ovation, Wright's wrestlers then came to the mic to speak of what Wright has meant to them on and off the mat.
"Mr. Wright's mentoring was one aspect that prepared me for my future," said Mitchell Ptaszek. "Taking Mr. Wright out of the coaching position for the duration of one year will decrease the chances of those wrestlers to be pushed to their full potential and reach their dream."
Wright's girlfriend, Kim Hurley, repeated the contention that the pipe found in Wright's jacket was not his and that he was actually framed.
"Rodney has not been found guilty in a court of law," Hurley said. "Is it fair for the administration to punish him like a guilty man?"