Thom Popoli, a Lely volunteer assistant football coach and avid backer of Lely athletics through his Foxboro Sports Tavern, is trying to get Steve Pricer's job back.
Popoli, a member of the Lely Touchdown Club, the fundraising arm of the football program, has sent out an e-mail to members, asking them to rally at the Lely coaches offices at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday to investigate the possibility of getting ex-coach Steve Pricer’s "forced" resignation rescinded.
Popoli said it was "coincidental" that the time was the starting time for the Touchdown Club’s regular meeting.
Pricer doubts that the administration would allow him back -- and he doesn’t know if he would go back.
"I don’t know what I would do if asked back, although I’ve been around 34 years and I’ve never seen that happen," Pricer said. "It is something that I would really have to pray about. I would have to sit down with my wife and talk about that one."
The e-mail asks members to bring friends to put pressure on principal Ken Fairbanks and athletic director Paul Ruby "in an intelligent and organized manner to support Steve Pricer as head coach right now. Please contact as many people that you think would show Steve Pricer the support that he has earned and the justice he deserves."
He sent it out as "Thom Popoli, Very Concerned Booster and Supporter & Volunteer Coach (and) Foxboro Sports Tavern Owner."
The e-mail comes after Pricer said he resigned under pressure rather than be fired on Thursday after a dispute with the administration over whether he kept his players practicing on the football field Wednesday with the lightning meter's light still on after a lightning delay. Pricer claimed the light was malfunctioning, and had received permission from the school trainer to resume practice.
The Lely administration, in a press release through the Collier County School District, stated Pricer resigned for health reasons, which Pricer denies.
Defensive coordinator Dave Miller was named interim coach the rest of the season. The Trojans lost a 16-6 lead and fell to Gulf Coast, 34-16, last week. Lely plays at Immokalee on Friday.
Popoli thinks he is taking a chance, that the administration might react to what he is doing and he might not be a volunteer coach for much longer.
"I don’t know what will come of this and I’m not the type to get into anyone’s face, but I think that what’s happening to Steve is unfair. I do know the last thing that Steve would do is threaten the life of a child."
When reminded that the administration said Pricer resigned for health reasons, Popoli doesn’t buy that explanation.
Pricer was in the bleachers on Friday night when the Trojans lost to Gulf Coast.
"On Friday night, Steve Pricer was supposed to be walking up and down the sidelines," Popoli said. "Those coaches and kids are so important to him and the majority care very much about him. I’d like to see the resignation be rescinded and he be welcomed back as the coach."
Pricer said there have been a number of phone calls from people saying they would be supportive in fighting to bring him back.
"But what does that mean?" he asked. "I don’t know what Fairbanks would do (if approached). I’ve been mulling over options that include in the county and out. Leaving the county is at the bottom of my option list."
Pat Lane, president of the Lely Touchdown Club, said Monday night that he had not looked at his e-mails that day.
"I would have to talk with my son first and other club members, before I could respond," he said. He was not sure if that was something the club could get involved in, other than individually.
His son Patrick, a junior, has been sharing quarterback duties with starter Sean O’Regan, a senior.
Ruby has attended some meetings, while Fairbanks does not go to the meetings.
Neither Ruby nor Fairbanks could be reached for comment.