Lana Adame stood on the sidewalk alongside nine other people on Niblick Road on Wednesday afternoon. Each of them held a sign that read “#IstandwithSchimke” as cars sped by, some of them honking and waving.
Adame, whose son Blake is a member of the Paso Robles High School football team, was there to show her support for embattled football coach Rich Schimke, who was seen in a video published Tuesday pouring syrup into a player’s belly button and then either licking it or pretending to lick it.
Lana Adame and the rest of the Schimke supporters were protesting the decision by the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to place Schimke on paid administrative leave after officials learned of the incident last week. The demonstrators The Tribune spoke with cited the fact that an investigation by the Paso Robles Police Department sparked by a complaint by Heather Moscato — the mother of the child in the video — found no criminal act had taken place.
Adame said she saw the video of what happened on Oct. 14 and it does not change what she thinks of the longtime coach.
“I have the utmost respect for coach Schimke,” Adame said. “It’s personal. I trust my son with this man every single day. I think it was an error in judgment. I think he got caught up in a moment. But I am standing here supporting him, and I want him to be back with the boys and in the classroom where he should be.”
She continued, “I would entrust my son with him right now. I actually wish it would have been my son (in the video). I don’t think it would have gone this far.”
Gary Pasky, a parent of Paso Robles High students, was also part of the protest Wednesday. His son, Bryce, played for Schimke for three years, and his daughter is in one of Schimke’s classes. He said Schimke showed a lapse in judgment, but he believes the coach should be reinstated.
“My daughter Miranda is in his statistics class, and although they have quality substitutes, there is no academic plan and there hasn’t been one for a week and a half,” Pasky said. “When is that going to change? He needs to get back in the classroom or someone needs to take control.”
District Superintendent Chris Williams witnessed the demonstration taking place outside his office.
“We really appreciate everybody’s opinion when they look at what they know,” Williams said. “They have a right to make a decision.”
Williams declined to comment on Schimke’s situation specifically, calling it a confidential personnel matter. Williams released a statement Tuesday saying his office was concerned with the content of the video and is continuing to investigate.
“It’s always a difficult situation with a personnel matter,” Williams said Wednesday as he stood within view of the protesters. “We are looking to have our kids stay the course with their football season right now. Fortunately we have some good people out there working with our kids. I want to give them the best chance to focus on the positive opportunity.”
Not all in support
Although those holding signs along Niblick Road agreed with the players and voiced support for Schimke, others on social media were not happy with what they saw in the video and called for the longtime coach to be fired.
“ ‘Boys being boys’ right? No! If this were my son ... the wrath would be felt that’s for sure,” Shaunna Nordstrom wrote on Facebook. “Shame on anyone defending these types of things. Turn your eye to this, do the same when something worse happens, then.”
Commenter Tim Klaus wrote, “I’m sorry, I’ve coached high school football, and I cannot even begin to imagine a situation where what he did in the video was OK.”
Heather Moscato, in a phone interview Tuesday with The Tribune, stood by her decision to file a report with police.
“I told my son (Joe Moscato) if anything happens out of this, I want you to walk away from this knowing to never, ever put your mouth on somebody else’s child,” Moscato said. “At the very least, I told him, this is wrong, and I am going to make sure you know that.”
Players back coach
In the wake of the video’s release, several players have spoken out in support of Schimke.
Senior Nolan Binkele defended Schimke in several posts Tuesday on Facebook.
“I am part of this team, and I have to say coach Schimke is a great role model,” Binkele wrote. “He’s known to be a very strict coach, but us players know him better than anyone. The one time he lets his guard down, he gets caught up in something our team considers one of the greatest, enjoyable nights we have had all year. I was not traumatized, and we do not need to be protected by the school or district. I stand next to my coach.”
Binkele, 17, went on to say the investigation should have been dropped when the police completed their work without finding wrongdoing.
Senior players Seth Matthysse and Mark Armstrong also showed support for Schimke on social media following the incident that occurred in the locker room after an Oct. 14 game against San Luis Obispo High School.
The Paso Robles High School athletic department barred the news media from attending Wednesday’s football practice as the Bearcats gear up for the biggest rivalry game of the year, the season-ending matchup against Atascadero on Friday night.
Schimke remains on paid leave. Assistant coach Matt Carroll is now overseeing the team.