Bucks coach head butts ref, finds job on the line

Posted: January 08, 2016

Neshaminy High School basketball coach Jerry Devine has been placed on leave both as coach and a teacher, and faces possible disciplinary action, after allegedly head-butting a referee, knocking him to the floor, during a game Tuesday night.

"I have viewed the video a few times, and I believe there will be a prosecution," David Heckler, the Bucks County district attorney, said Wednesday afternoon. "I think a coach has a very high level of responsibility to teach and lead kids. This teaches every wrong lesson you can think about."

The decision of whether to charge the coach will depend on the results of an ongoing police investigation, including what was said and whether the referee was injured, he said.

Videos appear to show Devine head-butting the referee after a charging call against a Neshaminy player in the final seconds of his team's 49-42 loss to visiting Pennsbury High School.

The referee got up after being knocked down. Devine was ejected, and the game continued.

The Neshaminy School District said Wednesday morning that it was conducting a review of the incident and that Devine, the basketball coach for 10 years, had been placed on "administrative leave pending the outcome of that review for both his teaching and coaching positions."

Efforts to reach Devine were unsuccessful.

Police were not dispatched to the school after the incident but are investigating whether a crime occurred, said Joe Bartorilla, police chief in Middletown Township.

He said his department was alerted to the video by the news media and was getting in contact with the referee, whose name has not been released.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association said that the game official filed a report on the reasons for Devine's ejection, and that Devine would at a minimum be barred from coaching his team's next game if he had not been put on leave.

"Actions like this will not be tolerated," the PIAA said in a statement, adding that it awaited the school district's report on what actions it planned to take "in regard to this unacceptable act."

The school district said it could not comment on possible disciplinary action against Devine until its review was complete because the case is "a personnel matter."

Devine, a father of four, teaches history and algebra and is in his 15th year at Neshaminy, according to his biography on the school's website.

He teaches special education as part of the school's emotional support program, which "focuses on the values of trust, respect, accountability, responsibility, and empathy towards others," according to the school.

mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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