By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The devil arrives pushing a baby stroller.
Dressed in fashionable shorts, snappy sandals and a black linen shirt, he shakes hands with parents, hugs cheerleaders and parks his future goddaughter in the front row of Bishop Lynch High School's Roffino Stadium. Hardly looks the part of a lightning rod that has conquered, divided and paralyzed one of the country's most revered middle-school athletic leagues. But that is Satan, right?
Who else could so polarize the Dallas Parochial League—the area's most prestigious Catholic sports association—into a group of staunch supporters willing to pull their children from athletics to support him versus a gaggle of administrators so vengeful they levy multiple suspensions, boycott games and implement pre-teens as pawns in their political power play against him?
Kevin Keane, that's who.
Admittedly not a saint. But definitely not Beelzebub.
"You either love Kevin or hate him," says Jon Banister, whose son, Robert, has played for Keane since 2001. "But everything he does for the kids is positive. He's done nothing to deserve being attacked. What's going on is ridiculous, absolutely embarrassing. My son is losing interest in sports and, after this, may not play again. We're supposed to be a Christian organization, but we're certainly not acting like it."
After resigning a week earlier as football coach of St. Mark's Catholic School in Plano (which is not related to St. Mark's School of Texas), Keane is in the stands Wednesday night for the eighth-grade game against St. Pius. Did he quit as an admission of guilt or merely surrender after years of first-class blackballing by the Diocese of Dallas?
"It's disgusting," Keane says. "I'm being treated worse than the pedophiles."
Counters Diocese spokeswoman Annette Gonzales-Taylor, "This is not extraordinary."
It all began in 2004 when Keane was hired by St. Mark athletic director Camille Patrick to resurrect a moribund football program fresh off an 0-8 season.
Enter Bobby Knight with a Bible.
Keane, 42, is a proud product of the Catholic community, attending St. Pius, Bishop Lynch and Texas Tech before starting a lucrative Collin County landscape business that allows him to volunteer endless time (coaching for free) and donate countless money (annually paying for his team's equipment). The father of six (Parker, 15, Oliver, 14, Hayden, 12, Fallon, 9, Regan, 6, and Ireland, 4), he has graying hair, a salty tongue and abrasive, effusive passion.
"Sure," Keane shrugs, "I've got my faults."
In his first year—despite admonismment from the athletic director to tone down his style and his team's scoring—Keane's fifth-grade Lions beat traditional power St. Monica in the Catholic Bowl, capping a 10-1 season in which they outscored and embarrassed opponents by an astonishing 265-18.
"After that," Keane says, "they were out to get me."
And the next season—on September 18, 2005—they got him. Sorta.
Faced with a 100-degree day on Jesuit High School's artificial turf and a roster depleted by three sick players, Keane employed a legal roster maneuver and played a sixth-grader on his fifth-grade team versus St. Rita. DPL bylaws allow for such pre-approved "swing" players to be used in emergency situations, and Keane considered having only 12 healthy bodies as extenuating circumstances.
"I'd do the same thing again," Keane says. "If I play that game with only one sub I'm putting kids at risk of a heat stroke."
Following DPL protocol, Keane notified first-year St. Mark AD Frederick Cavitt of his intentions before the game. Cavitt approved, and a call was made and an e-mail sent to DPL AD B.J. Antes at 9:43 a.m., hours before the 1 p.m. kickoff. Antes, now a fund-raiser and swim coach at Jesuit who last week refused comment, either somehow failed to get the notifications or inexplicably ignored them.
Only minutes after the St. Mark victory in which the substitute sixth-grader was limited to playing center, St. Rita coach Gary Oliver informed Keane that, according to Antes, the game was being considered a St. Mark forfeit. The following day—per Antes—Cavitt tearfully suspended his coach for using an ineligible player.
"Your action was within the letter of the law," Diocese Director of Schools Dr. Charles LeBlanc wrote in an e-mail to Keane, "but not the spirit of the law."
Also slapped with a supplemental ban, Keane would not coach again until August 2007. One player. Two years. The epitome of punishment dwarfing crime.
"Let's be clear," states Gonzales-Taylor, "Mr. Keane was originally suspended for only two games."
Not so. A DPL letter written by Antes, dated September 23, 2005—just five days after the incident—and addressed to St. Mark principal Suzanne Bacot clearly says Keane "is to be suspended from coaching activities for the remainder of this semester," which ran through December.
Keane also vehemently denies the accusations that extended his suspension from '05 into '06—calling plays from the stands via verbal, written and cell-phone communications.
"We have a video, with audio, taken by a St. Mark's parent," Gonzales-Taylor claims. Asked for a viewing, she responds, "It's not for public consumption."
Covert? Or cover-up?
"It's all bull," Keane says. "None of that is true."
Concurs Banister, "I was in the stands near Kevin for those games. That absolutely did not happen."