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Manhattan football coach put on administrative leave, residents weigh in

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Sep 27 2013 06:51:58 PM MDT
Updated On: Sep 27 2013 08:16:52 PM MDT
MANHATTAN, Mont. -

A Manhattan High School football coach is on administrative leave with pay until the school district completes an investigation into their financial matters regarding student activities.

Folks with the school district say Coach Dale McQueary's leave is a precautionary measure and there are no findings as to the coach's involvement.

We found there's a buzz around town. Many folks know the coach is on leave, but it's mostly speculation when it comes to the details of the investigation and how McQueary might be involved.

We talked to residents about just how important football is to the community and how the coach's absence might affect the team and the town. Manhattan residents tell us high school football pulls the community together.

"I can remember wearing jerseys to school on Fridays and it made you feel like you were part of something bigger than just yourself," says Manhattan native Charlie Lawellin.

Lawellin went to Manhattan High School and played on the football team. He tells us he doesn't believe McQueary's absence will affect the community's strong spirit for high school sports.

"I don't think it's going to divide or split up or have a divisive nature. I think it's going to be handled appropriately and everybody's going to get back to life as usual," Lawellin says.

Manhattan resident Brett Marshall agrees football is important to the community -- maybe a little too important.

"Why can't the community come together over the science club?" asks Marshall.

We asked Marshall if he had any thoughts on the investigation into student activities at Manhattan High School.

"Spend more money on academics and less on athletics and you won't have the problem," Marshall chuckles. But he tells us it shouldn't have an impact on the community or the town's high school athletics.

"I think, if there is a scandal, this is one person and it shouldn't reflect too much on the community," says Marshall.

When it comes to the football team, former player Lawellin tells us, there are other things they're focusing on. He says the team played last week without McQueary and had a great game against Big Timber.

"When your head coach isn't there, it's going to have an effect on you, but I think Mr. Grabowska, who's taken over the team, is an excellent coach, excellent person, so I have a feeling the team's not going to stumble in that aspect," explains Lawellin.

Lawellin tells us he believes the players will focus on business as usual and he hopes the community of Manhattan will do the same until all the facts are known and the investigation is complete.

We called McQueary to find out his story. We're told he's not ready to make a statement at this time.

Manhattan Public Schools Superintendent Jim Notaro sent NBC Montana a statement Friday, saying the district is simply taking all the appropriate precautions to protect the integrity of the investigation and that the district hopes to have this matter resolved in the very near future.

Folks with the Montana School Boards Association tell us the investigation will include collection, review and maintenance of physical evidence and personal interviews. They add employee rights will be honored at all times.