Monday, January 12, 1998
Holmes, student winners after apology

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Robert Brubaker
The underdogs at Holmes High School had a good weekend. The varsity and junior varsity basketball teams upset Covington Catholic. And, Robert Brubaker got his apology.

Robert is the 16-year-old Holmes equipment manager who had his school spirit stomped. Told by coach Jim Cooper to suit up for a junior varsity basketball game, Robert missed a day of work to do as he was asked. Then he learned it was a joke, courtesy of the coach and some players.

Robert wanted an apology. After the school spent the better part of last week blaming him, he finally received an apology late Friday afternoon.

Before Friday's junior varsity game, Robert was doing his job, standing under the basket in Holmes' gym. The team was practicing layups.

''I was watching so a ball wouldn't get lose and hit one of the cheerleaders,'' he said.

Robert saw Holmes' principal, William Grein, walking his way. The principal took the teen-ager to the locker room to meet coach Cooper.

The principal, Robert and the coach went into an office by the locker room. Everyone took a seat.

The apology

The coach, according to Robert, asked: ''What can I do to resolve this?''

Robert repeated his oft-stated request for an apology.

The coach said: ''I apologize for what I did to you. I am deeply, deeply sorry if this hurt you.''

Robert replied: ''I accept your apology.'' Everyone stood and shook hands. Robert went back ''to see to my managerial duties.'' The coach told the Enquirer on Friday he never told Robert directly to suit up for a game.

No matter what the coach says, Robert still sticks to his story. And he still accepts the coach's apology.

''This thing could go on and on forever and ever,'' Robert said Saturday during a break from his part-time job as a wheelchair attendant at the Cincinnati - Northern Kentucky International Airport. ''But as far as I'm concerned, it's over.''

Let it be

It's time for life at the Covington school to return to normal. The incident has divided Robert's classmates. ''Fifty-five percent say they're behind me,'' he said. ''Forty-five per cent say I've ruined the school's reputation.''

It's also time for school officials to take stock of what they've learned from this. In future dealings, they should remember that no matter who's right or wrong, the student's welfare comes first.

Robert said it's time to thank everyone who called and wrote letters and sent faxes on his behalf. His story, which first appeared a week ago Wednesday in my column, caught the city's attention. It even shoved the never-ending stadium debate from the tongues of talk radio.

Responses to Robert's story flooded my voice mail and overworked the fax machine. Most of the 411 callers and 136 fax writers were outraged. A good number wanted to send money for Robert's lost wages (he brings home his family's only paycheck) or help him make his Spanish Club's trip to Puerto Rico.

A fund was set up Friday by Robert's family minister at Star Bank. Donations can be sent to the Robert Brubaker Fund, 602 Madison Ave., Covington 41011.

Robert intends to use the money to pay for the trip to Puerto Rico. He said the total cost of the eight-day and seven-night trip ''would be $1,300.'' Robert already has $1,000 in donations.

What struck me in the flood of calls and letters was the tone of thoughtful compassion that makes me proud to say this is my hometown.

''Robert will have no long-lasting effect from this nasty encounter,'' predicted one letter writer, Jill Miller of Morrow. ''He is too busy being a responsible adult, helping fund a life for his family and working toward a goal of maturing into an adult others can look up to.''

I think he's already reached that goal. When I spoke with Robert on Saturday, he made a plea for everyone to drop the incident and ''move on.

''Concentrate on more important things, like searching the river for the body of Covington police Officer Mike Partin.

''That's more important than this could ever have been.''

Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

Previous stories

Holmes coach apologizes Jan. 10, 19998
Holmes offers non-apology, misstatements Jan. 9, 1998
District investigates prank on student Jan. 8, 1998
Coach, players take note: Real men apologize Jan. 7, 1998