NEW ROCHELLE, Westchester County (WABC) -- There is a controversy brewing in Westchester County after a popular high school football coach was reassigned from both his teaching and head coaching duties.
Louis DiRienzo's removal, pending an investigation, stunned the New Rochelle High School community and prompted a heated meeting between parents and the superintendent on Thursday.
The move came just a few days before the 10-0 Hugunots football team, ranked No. 2 in the state, is set to play a playoff matchup in the quest to repeat as Section I/Class A champions.
Parents say this is about more than just football, and they turned out to support DiRienzo and demand his reinstatement.
They say he has served as a father figure to hundreds of student-athletes for more than two decades.
District officials would not comment on the circumstances of the investigation, but parents say that it involved a student who is DiRienzo's relative and was impaired in some way.
DiRienzo contacted that person's father, the parents say, and allowed them to leave the school rather than face discipline -- an apparent violation of school protocol.
"My goal and my focus is on my football team and putting these young men in the best possible position to win a football game Saturday night," DiRienzo told Eyewitness News. "My personal life will never affect my professional life, and my goal to coach and mentor these kids."
Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo, who is in just her second week on the job, reassigned DiRienzo and stripped him of his coaching duties. She sent a letter home to parents (see below).
"When you're in a circumstance where you're reassigning someone, that's a significant piece of information that should be shared with the community," she said.
Alum and former NFL star Ray Rice, who serves as a volunteer assistant, was among those outraged.
"I mean, he's dad, he's my dad," Rice said. "He's the dad that I never had."
Three assistant coaches will lead the team in the playoff game.
The investigation is ongoing.
Full letter sent home to parents:
New Rochelle community,
I am writing to advise the community that Louis DiRienzo, Head Coach of the Huguenots football team and physical education teacher at New Rochelle High School, has been reassigned from his teaching and coaching responsibilities for the time being. During Coach DiRienzo's reassignment, the team's assistant coaches Foster, Rhett and Tassello will lead the Huguenots football team in practice and, if necessary, in Saturday's playoff game at Mahopac High School.
While many of you may be seeking and/or may seek additional information concerning the foregoing, please know that the District has an obligation to ensure that the confidentiality rights of our staff members are not violated by District representatives at any time. This obligation invariably limits the amount of information that can be shared with parents, notwithstanding our desire to do so.
We understand many of you may be disappointed by this news and certainly understand the importance of this game to our school and our community. However, we are confident that our student athletes will continue to perform in an outstanding manner under the assistant coaches' stewardship during this time and we will provide any and all resources necessary to ensure our team's continued success.
We will continue to provide you with as much information as possible on an ongoing basis to ensure that you are fully informed of the situation to the extent legally permissible.
Thank you for your understanding and patience at this time.
Dr. Laura Feijóo
Superintendent of Schools
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Popular New York high school football coach, teacher reassigned pending investigation