FARRELL, Pa. (WKBN) – The Farrell School Board decided not to wait another week and instead voted to keep the name of Ed McCluskey on the high school gymnasium Monday night.
The Farrell School Board held a special meeting Monday night to discuss whether all mentions of the late and legendary basketball coach Ed McCluskey should be removed from the school.
The vote was as tight as it could get: 5-4. It came after an hour’s worth of debate on both sides. The McCluskey name will stay.
About 60 people attended the meeting in the Farrell High School Auditorium.
“Coach McCluskey still lives and rules through the threads of our community’s proud history, of which he is such a large part,” said Jim Raykie, who attended the meeting.
Monday night’s meeting comes three weeks after a group of people, including at least one of McCluskey’s former players, petitioned the board to have his name removed, claiming McCluskey beat and berated his players.
“And there’s been at least four people that we know of that had clipboards broken over their heads,” said Brian Sanders.
Former player Brian Sanders led the effort to have the Ed McCluskey name removed from the high school gymnasium because he and others claimed McCluskey was overly abusive. Former player Arthur Chambers told of what coach McCluskey did to his twin brother.
“He took his fist and he hits him five dog-on times. For what reason, I don’t know,” Chambers said.
But the other side of McCluskey was also told by former players who honored him for the legend he’d become.
McCluskey coached Farrell from 1948 to 1977 — winning seven state championships.
Those who claim McCluskey’s memory should be erased claim his actions were excessive even for the times.
However, one former player, Al Campman, says those were the times — coaches and teachers laid hands on students — that’s the way it was.
“He demanded excellence, and during that period of time, a culture was developed that stayed with me until today,” Campman said.
Campman says McCluskey did a lot more good than bad.
“Through his discipline and high expectations, he created a roadmap for not only athletics but for achievement capability in life,” said Brian Generalovich, a former player.
Every person who spoke in favor of McCluskey was White, and all those who spoke against him were Black.
“And if you look at the room, it became a Black/White issue. White people over here, the Black people over here. That was not my intention to do that,” Sanders said.
School Board member Gary Satterwhite suggested the issue be tabled and that the naming rights to the gym be sold, but the board voted against tabling — and then, without discussion, voted 5-4 to keep the E.J. McCluskey name on the gymnasium.
As the meeting was ending, First news spoke briefly with Sanders, who organized the effort to have McCluskey’s name removed. He said, “It’s not over yet.”