Two recent arrests are raising questions as to whether local Youth football coaches receive background checks and how much those checks should factor into the hiring process.
Last month, Larry Simpson, the coach of the Claymont Falcons, a team in the Delaware County Youth Football League, was arrested after allegedly getting into a fight with the coach of an opposing team. Police say Simpson fractured the other coach’s jaw. He was arrested and charged with assault and reckless endangerment.
A background check revealed Simpson had a record of assaults, theft and drug convictions from 1997 to 2002. The problem was that the background check wasn’t done until after his most recent arrest.
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According to Roger Burke, another coach in the league, that’s absolutely unacceptable.
“Everyone should have a background check,” Burke said.
Still, Burke doesn’t believe it should automatically eliminate someone from getting the position, especially considering the fact that he himself has a record.
“Me and a good friend of mine got into a fight a long time ago,” Burke said.
Burke says he was a kid when he pleaded to aggravated assault over 20 years ago.
“I was 18,” he said. “Now I’m getting ready to turn 43. I think my record stands for itself.”
NBC10 spoke to some parents of Youth football players who weren’t sure if a background check had been done on their child’s coach. We randomly checked the criminal records of youth football coaches in our area and found convictions for DUI’s, drug possession and aggravated assault. Some were recent while others were decades ago.
Of course, a background check doesn’t always guarantee a coach will stay out of trouble. Last week, Keith Peschen, a former Youth football coach, was arrested after he allegedly raped an underage girl who was a cheerleader for the team. While a background check was never performed on Peschen before his hiring, it wouldn’t have mattered because he had a clean record.
Still, while it won’t prevent all situations similar to Simpson’s and Peschen’s from happening, many officials agree that background checks are an important policy that all leagues should have.
Officials say parents of children should ask if officials for the league their child is playing in do background checks on their coaches. Pop Warner is one of the National Youth Football Organizations that insist coaching candidates reveal their criminal history. Teams pay a fee to check their record.
Pop Warner officials also say however that if they find a criminal past that’s old they may still accept the coach depending on the situation. It’s then up to the parents to decide whether they still want their children to play for that coach.