Thursday, September 20, 2001

Bellevue hopes to replace trophies

Custodians tossed them out with trash

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BELLEVUE — Residents of this Campbell County river city will get back about 70 years of history and tradition that was thrown out with the trash.

        Over the summer, custodians at Bellevue High School mistakenly threw away as many as 300 athletic trophies — including those from state champion football and track teams and others dating back to the 1930s — along with piles of records.

        At the urging of board chairman Joe Egan, the board voted unanimously Wednesday to pay for replacing the trophies, though the cost has not been determined.

        Word about the incident has been circulating around the city for at least three weeks. Wednesday night Bellevue alumni, residents and former teachers and coaches showed up at the Bellevue Board of Education meeting for answers about how the artifacts were tossed out.

        “That was my life's work thrown in those Dumpsters,” Charlie Coleman, who retired last year after 23 years as a football coach and athletic director at the school, told board members.

        Superintendent Ora Cobb told the crowd of 40 or so people that he investigated the matter and determined that custodians misunderstood a directive from school administrators to remove some trophies and clean an area where the trophies were displayed.

        “The loss of school archives is a tragedy, if not a travesty,” Mr. Cobb said. “We need to move forward, preserve our heritage and past and merge with the future as we move our school and district into the new century.”

        Mr. Cobb also dismissed speculation that administrators told the custodians to dispose of the trophies.

        “Nobody ordered that,” he said. “(Custodians) took it on themselves to make a decision, and they were wrong.

        “Everyone can point blame to everyone else, and make nasty hurting comments that will hurt other people — and that hurt will never heal,” Mr. Cobb said. “It is time to move on.”

        Mr. Cobb did say the custodians have received written and oral reprimands.

        A policy will also be put in place to prevent anything similar from taking place in the future, Mr. Egan said. He also said more investigation may be needed to determine if someone is responsible for making the decision to throw the trophies away.

        A committee of alumni has begun working to determine exactly what trophies are missing, said Jay Sprague, a 1979 Bellevue graduate who helped win three regional track championships as a hurdler.

        “We're going through yearbooks now, but I don't think there is any way to find out every trophy that was thrown out,” Mr. Sprague said. “Even if we do, we can buy new trophies but nothing will replace the originals.

        “There is a lot of pride in Bellevue High School, and this really hurts a lot of people,” he said. “I would just say to other schools, keep an eye on your trophies so something like this doesn't happen any place else.”

        Bellevue assistant principal Shelli Wilson said plans are in the works to begin a Bellevue Sports Hall of Fame and to create a better display for the trophies.

        And high school principal Marian Sumner said students are preparing to interview alumni for an oral history of Bellevue sports history.

        “We want to make these trophies come alive,” she said.


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