Support strong for Manatee High football despite Frazier case

Friday was just another day of football

jlembo@bradenton.comAugust 24, 2013 

BRADENTON -- It was a little past 6:15 p.m. Friday when Roger Williams walked out of his minivan and toward the Hawkins Stadium box office.

His wife, Joanna, a 1954 Manatee High alum, waited in the car while Roger purchased tickets for the Hurricanes' Kickoff Classic against Tarpon Springs East Lake.

A Canes fan for about four years, Williams said his fandom was not affected by the controversy surrounding Rod Frazier, a former parent liaison and Manatee assistant football coach who police say had improper relationships with female students.

Four district administrators have been charged with failure to report suspected child abuse or giving false information to law enforcement as a result of an investigation of Frazier.

"Football's football," said Williams, who gave his age as over 70. "I don't like the situation; a lot people are getting hurt."

Friday night felt like a regular football game: Each team jogged to its side of the field while coaches from East Lake and Manatee chatted near midfield.

Fans clad mostly in red made their way to the home side of Hawkins Stadium as the East Lake fans, wearing the team's colors of blue and white, grabbed their seats in the visitors' section.

Gene Brown, the president of Manatee's football booster club, said he hasn't seen community support wane one bit.

"It's a terrible situation," Brown said. "But it was more of a parent liaison situation, and it got billed as a high school football coach situation.

"With our booster club fundraisers and our radio advertisements, it has been the same support as it's always been."

Phil Dudevoire, a junior at Manatee, said he hasn't seen the student body's attitude change toward the football team.

"There's no one talking trash to the football team or anything," said Dudevoire, who also does statistics for the game's radio broadcasts. "I haven't seen it."

When people approach Brown about the Frazier situation, he said he believes the punishment, if applicable, should fit the crime.

"I tell them, 'What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong,' " he said. "If someone did do something wrong, the consequences will be what they should be. But everyone gets their day in court, and we should remember that.

"Right now, it's about the student-athletes and what they are going to accomplish on the field. It's about them."

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