Utica-Notre Dame football coach suspended after sitting players who missed practices

Byron Abraham

Utica-Notre Dame suspended head football coach Byron Abraham this week, after he benched four players in the teamâ??s game against Clinton on Saturday. He is not allowed to have any contact with the team until Sunday.

Those four players missed a week of practice before the Clinton game to participate in the schoolâ??s ROTC program, and Abraham says they were told they would not play in the game before the week of practice, and that not one of the athletes or parents objected.

He says "parental pressures" were a part of his suspension, and that he was told the parents of the players who did not play were making "a stir" during the team's game with Clinton.

Utica-Notre Dame principal Sister Anna Mae Collins could not comment on why he was suspended, and said the decision was made by the school administration and Director of Athletics Gene Leuthauser.

On Monday morning, the school's administration met with Abraham, who said he was given a chance to explain his actions, and then told he was suspended for insubordination and that he disobeyed an order from an administrator that he had to play the four athletes.

"I was told I was going to be suspended for point is I needed an order to be insubordinate to," Abraham says.

He denied that he was told to play anyone, and that the only order he received was to not "penalize" the kids. He says had he been told to play those athletes, he would have had the same response.

"These four kids will not be prepared to play in the football game without a week of practice, what we put in for the opponent they'd have no knowledge of, they'd put themselves at risk as well as their teammates at risk," Abraham says.

While the injury factor was on his mind, he also did not want to be unfair to the other athletes on the team, who had worked hard in practice all week, only to have an athlete who did not practice take their spot in the game.

"I couldn't imagine saying to one of those kids, 'Hey you worked all week, I'm still gonna play this kid that wasn't here this week if that's ok,' I couldn't do it, I'm not gonna do it, I don't think the administration...would've done it," Abraham says.

As for the future, he will keep his philosophy intact, a philosophy he says he learned from playing running back for Coach Dick MacPherson at Syracuse University from 1984 to 1988.

The assistant coaches will conduct practice this week before the (3-2) Jugglers travel to undefeated Sherburne-Earlville on Friday night.

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