Did football coach take school spirit too far?

Posted at 9:07 AM, Nov 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-19 09:07:31-05

By Kamal Wallace

(CNN) — A Tennessee high school assistant coach faces charges of vandalism after he was arrested November 13 for allegedly damaging his own school to motivate his football team against its cross-county rival.

The day before the November 1 game between Marion County and South Pittsburg that would decide the District 6-A championship, authorities say, someone used orange and black paint — the colors of South Pittsburg — to spray-paint vulgarities on the field house at Marion County High School and damaged the school’s campus.

“The field house was spray painted, a purple turf mat was damaged. A storage building was vandalized and trash was tossed all over the place,” Mark Griffith, superintendent of Marion County schools, told HLN.

Griffith said the damage on campus was estimated at about $5,000 to $6,000.

Investigators later arrested Michael Schmitt, an economics/government teacher and assistant football coach at Marion High. They told the Chattanooga Times Free Press they believe Schmitt caused the damage to inspire his own team.

“It is sad to say that this event gives the whole community a black eye, and the real victims of this incident are the kids from both schools,” Marion County Sheriff Det. Matt Blansett told the newspaper.

It is not yet known what led authorities to arrest Schmitt. Griffith said the community was shocked by the allegations involving the assistant coach.

“We’re in the healing process and we’ll try to put this behind us and move on,” Griffith said. “We talked with the team the night of the coach’s arrest and told them if the allegations turn out to be true, we told them that was conduct unbecoming of a coach.”

Griffith said Schmitt has been placed on administrative leave until the internal investigation is over. He was released from jail on a $2,500 bond.

According to his profile on the school’s website, Schmitt spent 13 years in the U.S. Army and has four children. HLN has reached out to Schmitt for comment, but calls were not returned.

South Pittsburg defeated Marion County 35-17.

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