Hearing Held for Assistant Coach

By Francis Scarcella

The Daily Item

Coach Bill Suspect | Patrick O'Connell Law Office
Attorney Patrick O’Connell points to his client, suspended assistant coach Bob Supsic during opening remarks.

SUNBURY — Nearly four hours of testimony from witnesses in a public hearing Tuesday night to determine the fate of a Shikellamy assistant wrestling coach accused of manhandling a student after an altercation caught on video surveillance resulted in crowd outbursts and a bitter battle between two outside attorneys.

The assistant coach, Bob Supsic, requested a public hearing after he said district superintendent Robin Musto suspended him for protecting school property by using force to control an unruly student during a November Ivy League wrestling practice.

Testimony ended at about 10:45 p.m. for the administration, and witnesses for Supsic were about to be called to testify at deadline. The board will vote on Supsic’s future on Thursday during a regular school board meeting.

Earlier in the night, testimony by Shikellamy High School Principal Mike Hubicki determined he was the one who made the recommendation that Supsic be suspended after conducting an investigation into the incident. He said he did not speak to the student in question or Supsic during the probe.

Hubicki spoke before the board and answered several questions about his involvement in the determination of the future of Supsic’s coaching job by outside attorneys Jeffrey Champagne, of Harrisburg, who represented the administration, and Pat O’Connell, of Bloomsburg, who represented Supsic.

District solicitor Jeff Apfelbaum mediated the hearing.

Eight school directors showed up ready to hear testimony after an explosive Dec. 12 board meeting that left Supsic and Musto arguing after the meeting was adjourned. Recently elected director Kim Markunas was absent from Tuesday’s hearing.

Once proceedings began, Hubicki said Athletic Director Joe Robsock told him about the Nov. 17 incident, where Supsic claimed a student smashed a glass box that housed a fire extinguisher, and when Supsic approached the student, the altercation occurred.

A videotape of the incident was turned over to the Sunbury Police Department, and after investigating the matter, officers decided nothing illegal had occurred and the case was closed. Robsock heard about the incident through another assistant coach, Chris Burgess.

O’Connell argued that Hubicki’s testimony was not credible because he didn’t interview anyone involved in the incident.

The videotape was played Tuesday night for a crowd of about 200 inside the high school auditorium, and additional footage was released showing several students horsing around what appears to be a fire extinguisher casing.

The video later shows Supsic walking down the hallway with a student and grabbing the student by the shirt, while the student tries to break free.

Frame by frame, Champagne slowed down the footage while Brian Betz took the stand and spoke on behalf of his son, who was the student on film with Supsic.

“I got a phone call from my wife about what had happened at about 8:15 p.m. that night,” he told Champagne. “I called Bob Supsic shortly after and asked what had happened.”

Betz said Supsic told him nothing happened and that Supsic had explained to his son that he had great potential as a wrestler.

As board members watched the surveillance footage, Betz said his son was afraid of Supsic and all he wanted to do was make sure no other student would have to go through what he claims his son endured.

“I just want to get on with life in Sunbury,” Betz told the board. “I believe Bob Supsic needs to take an anger management course, and parents need to be allowed in the mat room to watch what is going on.”

Supsic shook his head several times, while the attorneys battled it out. At one point, O’Connell tried to make a point of what was considered force, by grabbing Supsic by the shirt.

Audience members became loud after hearing the testimony of Hubicki and Musto, and at one point, a shouting match between the mother of the student involved and several onlookers began.

Supsic begged for the crowd to calm down, and after order was restored, Musto was called to testify.

Musto told the board she was informed of the incident by Hubicki, and they watched the video together.

She did not determine that Supsic was to be fired, as the recommendation was made by Hubicki, who previously testified he felt Supsic was unfit to coach.

“It was a direction I agreed with,” Musto said about the recommendation. “This was decided by the chain of command.”