Neil Walker hopes Pine-Richland avoids ‘huge black eye’ from football coach controversy | Trib HSSN


Wednesday, April 21, 2021 | 3:45 PM

Retiring pro baseball player Neil Walker, one of Pine-Richland’s most famous alums, hopes the controversial ouster of the football coach doesn’t become “a huge black eye” for the community.

The 2004 Pine-Richland graduate spoke Wednesday with reporters and discussed plans to retire after 12 MLB seasons with the Pirates, Mets, Yankees, Brewers, Marlins and Phillies. Asked about his alma mater’s decision to replace football coach Eric Kasperowicz, Walker said he has followed the controversy but couldn’t say who’s right or wrong.

“It’s been really tough to kind of see the things that are going on right now,” Walker said. “To be frank, I don’t know a lot of the intricacies of it because pieces are being put out there. Both sides are somewhat speaking their mind but they’re also somewhat keeping things close to the vest. So it would be unfair for me to say anything more than I love this community.”

Walker, 35, was a three-sport athlete at Pine-Richland when the Pirates drafted him out of high school in the first round of the 2004 MLB Draft. His wife Niki also went to Pine-Richland, and he said they plan to have their two children attend the school district as well.

“I had a tremendous education from Pine-Richland,” Walker said. “I had tremendous coaches in basketball, football, baseball. My one brother went to Richland High School before it became Pine-Richland. I’ve seen the school go from 65 kids a class to 400-plus that it is right now. You hope that whatever the outcome of this may be — one side or the other — that it somehow comes to a positive spin. Because everything that has gone on to this point has been hard to watch and hard to wrap your mind around.”

As a wide receiver for Pine-Richland’s football team, Walker helped the Rams reach the WPIAL finals twice. In his senior season, they won the 2003 WPIAL Class AAA title and were state runners-up.

Walker played for Clair Altemus, who preceded Kasperowicz as coach. Kasperowicz kept Walker connected with the football team over the years.

“My personal relationship with Coach Kasper has been fantastic,” Walker said. “I go up to the high school every year to talk to the kids.”

Pine-Richland cut ties with Kasperowicz last week after eight seasons. The Rams went 85-18 under him with four WPIAL titles and two state titles. Students, parents and community members had rallied in recent days, demanding the school rehire Kasperowicz and his assistants.

However, school board president Peter Lyons said Tuesday the district chose not to renew Kasperowicz’s contract after a three-month investigation into “specific allegations of inappropriate student conduct and a broader allegation of misconduct with the football program, including, but not limited to hazing, bullying, intimidation and rites of passage.”

Lyons said dozens of students, coaches and parents were interviewed and that an “in depth” interview was conducted with Kasperowicz.

“I guess we’ll see as time goes along here how this transpires,” Walker said. “But as someone that’s lived in this community for 32 of my 35 years, this is such an amazing place to live and an amazing place to raise kids. You hope this doesn’t end up being a huge black eye, on especially the football program, the sports programs and the community here.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Tags: Pine-Richland

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