Man with AIDS barred from coaching son's football team - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Man with AIDS barred from coaching son's football team

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A youth football league has barred a former firefighter who has AIDS from helping coach his 7-year-old son's team.

However, the decision by the Ellet Suburban Football League board was left in question after most members of the volunteer board quit Monday night.

Dan Gable, the league director, had promised parents opposed to the decision involving Stephen Derrig that the board would reconsider.

"I don't know what's going to happen now," Gable said.

Two weeks ago league officials suggested that they might have a problem with Derrig helping coach the nearly 40 boys ages 7 and 8 making up the league's "C" team.

Derrig (pictured, above) said the opposition took him by surprise. He has coached his daughter's softball team and his son's baseball team, both part of the same parent organization that oversees the football program.

Gable said he began to get anonymous calls from people identifying themselves as parents who expressed concern about Derrig coming into contact with their children on the football field.

The calls continued, he said, so he felt obligated to ask the board to make a decision.

The board called a special meeting Sunday night and voted to keep Derrig from coaching. A board member, Derrig's brother Tom Derrig, couldn't attend the meeting.

Stephen Derrig said he wasn't sure whether he would take any action to try to get the coaching position back.

"They keep saying that the parents are going to have this fear and they want to stop it," Derrig said. "But I really think it is their own fears. I think they are selling this community short. This is a fantastic community, and I don't think this is how they feel."

Nearly all the parents at Monday night's meeting said the board made a bad decision without any knowledge of how AIDS is transmitted. About four people raised their hands when asked if they wanted to bar Derrig.

Dr. Margo Erme of the Akron Health Department attended the meeting and said occupations such as coaching present no risk for AIDS transmission. It can be transmitted only through the blood and through genital fluids -- not through sweat or through the air -- and everyone knows to take precautions with blood, she said.

Derrig's AIDS diagnosis has been widely known since a newspaper story about him appeared last October. A firefighter and paramedic, he received worker's compensation benefits for contracting the illness through an unknown contact on the job.

He continued working until March, when he retired on disability.

His doctors were worried that others would infect him with illnesses that his fragile immune system might be too weak to fight.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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