Holmes High School finally found the courage to say these words to Robert Brubaker:
''We are sorry.''
But at a Thursday press conference, school officials wrapped themselves up in one of the most self-serving, blame-deflecting apologies I have ever heard.
''We are sorry,'' said Principal William Grein, ''that Robby's love of Holmes High School athletics has resulted in a misunderstanding that has been blown totally out of proportion.''
Translation: Don't blame us. Blame Robert.
After pursuing this story since mid-December, I continue to be surprised and disheartened by the many twists and turns it has taken.
Robert Brubaker stands by this story: Coach Jim Cooper told him to suit up for a game because the team was short on players. When the 16-year-old equipment manager did, thrilled to be asked and missing a day's wages at his part-time job, he found out it was supposed to be a joke.
Schools officials on Thursday said this is what happened:
I spoke with Robert again Thursday. He didn't go to the press conference.
- Robert ''overheard'' coaches complaining about how thin the roster was and took it upon himself to suit up.
- Robert was told the night before the game by athletic director Ron Madrick that he couldn't play.
Again, according to Robert, he was told directly by coach Cooper to suit up for a junior varsity game. And he was not dissuaded of that notion by Mr. Madrick.
School officials also accused me of inaccurate reporting. They say I inaccurately stated that Mr. Madrick acknowledged the incident happened.
Robert stands by his story. I stand by my reporting, which began in December and continues this week.
Athletic director Ron Madrick is the man I contacted to get to the bottom of what I had been told by Robert and his mother. I've interviewed him a number of times.
On Dec. 18, Mr. Madrick said: ''The boy told me at halftime of our game Friday night that he was going to have to dress and play in this JV basketball game Saturday because we had kids going out of town on vacation. . . . I just dismissed it as just being Robby. I never even gave it a thought.''
On Jan. 5, Mr. Madrick said: ''He even mentioned it to me the night before the ballgame. I said, 'Yeah, sure, Robby.' So I guess I'm as guilty as anybody else, if I said, yeah, OK, Robby, as if I'm putting my approval on him dressing.''
On Jan. 8, at the press conference, the Holmes High School press release said: ''Ron Madrick specifically told the reporter that he talked to the players, managers and coaches and that it didn't happen.''
Mr. Madrick never said, in any of our conversations, that he had concluded the incident never happened.
The contrast in Mr. Madrick's quotes took me back to my notes. During my very first conversation with Mr. Madrick on Dec. 17, he said: ''Don't you dare go with that story.''
On Dec. 18, Mr. Madrick said: ''If something like this were to be put in the paper, one, it's embarrassing. We'll overcome it, you know, because our statements will be well planned out and all that stuff. But the kid won't, because he'll take more abuse.'' HD:Good news
The bright spot this week is that a lot of people have shown they care. Since Wednesday, I've received 297 phone calls and 101 faxes supporting Robert.
In the last two days, I've heard from some of Cincinnati's rich and famous as well as many regular folks. The words they've used the most are outraged and appalled.
Many echo the words that Dennis C. Cuneo, vice president and corporate secretary at Toyota Motor's North American headquarters in Erlanger, addressed to Holmes' principal: ''I hope someone at your school has the courage to apologize to Robert Brubaker. If not, please extend my apology to him that such outrageous behavior could occur in the Northern Kentucky community.''
I asked Robert on Thursday night if the school district's press conference apology was sufficient.
''No,'' Robert said. ''They did not apologize for the incident in question.''
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Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.