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A third and fourth grade Grant County Youth Football team will not be finishing their season or playing in this year’s playoffs.
The team, the Blue Mighty Pros, have been suspended from the league for the remainder of the season, causing a firestorm of emotions from parents, boosters and league officials.
The controversy started last fall when Craig Ruber, coach of the Blue Mighty Pros, gave some of his players a Walton-Verona jersey and told them to urinate on it.
Some parents were present at the practice and didn’t have a problem with what Ruber called “a way to motivate his team for their game against Walton.”
Brian Magee, an assistant coach with Ruber’s team, filed a written complaint six months after the incident happened. The complaint was filed with the North Central Kentucky Youth Football League, who organizes and has oversight of the league, consisting of teams from Owen, Gallatin, Walton-Verona, Pendleton, Bracken and two teams (Blue and Gold) from Grant County.
The NCKYFL, now known as the Greater North Central Kentucky Youth Football League, was started by Allen and Tricia Burkhart, about nine years ago, when Allen Burkhart said he realized that youth teams in rural areas did not have an organized league and weren’t able to have playoff or Super Bowl games to end the season.
The league, which has youth football directors from each county involved, utilizes school facilities for their games, but they are not governed by any of those school districts.
The league directors met last week and decided to suspend the Blue Mighty Pros, after Burkhart said the panel voted to suspend Ruber as a coach and he continued coaching.
“I want to apologize to the parents and kids who are innocent in this situation which is the result of people not doing their jobs,” Burkhart said.
Ruber contends that Burkhart has a personal vendetta against him and that is why the team has been suspended.
“Yes, the boys did it. I was the coach and it’s my responsibility. I feel if I’m going to get disciplined why isn’t he (Burkhart) getting disciplined too because he bought the shirt and told me to have the kids do it,” Ruber said.
Burkhart said he doesn’t have a personal axe to grind with Ruber, but rather is doing what is best for the league.
“I promise I don’t personally have anything against Craig Ruber,” Burkhart said. “This has to do with coaching.”
“We don’t want the kids to suffer because of a coach’s decision, but one of the big reasons we suspended the whole team is because there were some kids, a very few, but some who were cussing coaches and things like that,” Burkhart said.
Parents, coaches and others have taken the fight to social media sites such as Facebook and Topix.
“The personal attacks have been unreal,” Burkhart said. “I’ve been accused of things that are crazy. Some people are even threatening lawsuits.”
Allen Burkhart, along with his wife, started the Central Kentucky Youth Football League, about nine years ago.
It consists of a panel of directors from each of the counties involved with Grant County having two representatives because of the number of players from Grant County.
In October 2011, Burkhart said Craig Ruber, coach of the Blue Mighty Pros, asked him to assist him in coaching Ruber’s team.
“He asked me how we used to get motivated for a big game,” Burkhart said. “I told him that we used to get the other team’s jersey and put it on a tackle dummy and pump the kids up that way.”
Burkhart said that Ruber asked him to obtain a Walton-Verona jersey and Burkhart did.
“The next week, I was about an hour late to the practice and it (when Ruber’s players urinated on the W-V jersey) must have happened then before I got there,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart said he’s aware that Ruber is telling people that Burkhart told him to have the football players pee on the jersey.
“I’m willing to be hooked up to a lie detector to prove I didn’t tell him to do that,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart said he personally witnessed and heard Ruber cursing in front of his team.
“He told them ‘he was pissed off and he wanted them to go out and kick some ass today,’” Burkhart said.
Burkhart said he also witnessed Ruber’s football players “run to the end zone and grab their crotch when they made a touchdown, right in front of the fans.”
“There’s just a certain behavior you’ve got to have in front of the kids,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart said they were other issues that caused the league to vote to ban Ruber from coaching that included Ruber suggesting his players hurt players from other teams intentionally.
“They’re were allegations he offered money to his players for them to hurt other players,” Burkhart said.
In the complaint filed by Brian Magee, Ruber’s assistant coach, Magee claims he witnessed Ruber offering money the players.
“The final straw with the coach was when in the 2012 season, he, in a way to win, would bribe the boys with money to take any kid of the opposite team to take advantage of a personal injury or a coach’s kid to get them out of the game,” Magee’s complaint stated.
Burkhart said at that time, he informed the Grant County Youth Football League commissioners that Ruber should be removed as a coach and despite being sent a letter to that effect, the Grant County league voted to allow him to continue to coach.
“The next week, the NCKYFL voted to remove him as a coach,” Burkhart said.
Ruber was suspended as a coach for this season, but Burkhart said he continued to coach.
According to an email dated Aug. 29, 2012, from Tricia Burkhart, president of the NCKYFL, to the directors of the league, the Grant County Mighty Pro Blue team had been placed on probation for the rest of the season.
The email stated “It cannot be made any clearer that the NCKYFL is finished dealing with the problems related to the suspension of Craig Ruber, and therefore, will not tolerate any more disturbances. If the league rules are broken again, the consequences will be on Grant County Blue and not the NCKYFL.”
Burkhart said the directors feared for the safety of other players in the league.
“We were concerned that kids could get hurt because of the way those kids (the Mighty Pro Blue) were being taught to play football,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart said his goal is for the attacks to stop.
“Our football program, from the high school down, isn’t a bad program, but this has put a mark, not only on football, but our people in Grant County,” Burkhart said.
Both Burkhart and Ruber have been guests on a radio talk show discussing the situation.
Craig Ruber’s side:
Craig Ruber has been a Grant County Youth Football coach for 10 years, even before his son was born.
He is the coach of the Blue Mighty Pros, a third and fourth grade team.
Ruber said he did not ask Allen Burkhart, the director of the NCKYFL, to help him coach his team last fall, but rather Burkhart came to a practice after buying a Walton-Verona football jersey and told Ruber to have the players urinate on the jersey to get them motivated for their game against Walton.
“Allen came to us with some suggestions of how to get the boys pumped and one was to get them to pee on a T-shirt,” Ruber said. “Allen bought the shirt, brought it to us and gave us the idea.”
“Yes, the boys did pee on the shirt. Did I line them up like he says? No,” Ruber said.
They were playing with the shirt all night long, they were chasing each other around and kicking it in the dirt,” Ruber said.
Ruber said only some of the team actually urinated on the shirt. He said that some parents were at the practice and no one seemed bothered by it.
An incident report was filed a few days after the boys urinated on the jersey by the former Grant County league president after she was questioned about the incident, Ruber said.
Ruber said the president asked him to attend the next Grant County Youth Football League meeting and explain what happened.
Ruber said he signed off on the incident report on Oct. 26, 2011, that the league, according to its bylaws, was required to file with the NCKYFL.
Ruber said he continued on as a coach and he thought the incident was over until this spring when during spring training camp, he was notified that the NCKYFL had voted to suspend him this season as a coach after Brian Magee filed his complaint letter dated April 22, 2012 with the NCKYFL. .
“I asked for numerous, numerous meetings to tell my side,” Ruber said. “I wanted to meet with those directors and tell my side of the story and nothing like that ever happened.”
With him now suspended, Ruber said he attended the games as a parent and volunteered to help in any way he could.
“If they needed a spotter, I’d be a spotter. If they needed someone to sell hot dogs, I’d sell hot dogs, whatever. I wanted to see my son play and be with those kids,” Ruber said.
Ruber said he donated money and time to water the football fields, as well as hold parties and gatherings for the team.
Ruber said he was then accused of “coaching from the press box.”
“I never once called a play from the press box like they said I was. I was spotting the game, helping out like any other parent. I didn’t know I had an assigned seat,” Ruber said.
In the letter the GNCKYFL sent to Ruber regarding his suspension, it states that “Your failure to comply with the GNCKYFL Rules stating that players, coaches and board members are expected to conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner at all times prompted this action.”
Ruber contends he was never given any rules or code of conduct by the NCKYFL.
“They said they handed out rules, but I never got a copy,” Ruber said.
As far as telling his players to hurt other players, Ruber said that didn’t happen.
When a Cincinnati TV station ran a story about the team’s suspension, a photo of a player with a broken nose and black eye was shown.
“Then they show a photo of a picture, a boy hurt during the game. He looked like he’d been beat to death and they accused one of our boys of doing it, but where was the ref during all of this?” Ruber asked. “There was no penalty called for that game so if that kid was hurt by one of our players, why didn’t the ref see it and call it?”
Ruber’s contention is that the team should not have been suspended for what he calls Allen Burkhart’s “personal vendetta against him.”
“If a child did that, whether it’s my son or someone else’s son then suspend him, not the whole team,” Ruber said.
Ruber said he’s convinced the issue is personal because a couple of years ago another team in the league was playing an ineligible player who was too old for the team he was playing on.
“When the league found out, they let the coach sit out one game, but they didn’t suspend the whole team,” Ruber said. “If they’ll let those kids play, I’ll sit at home.”
Ruber said he loved coaching, but wasn’t sure if he was interested in coaching after the suspension was over.