CAYCE, SC (WIS) - Some parents at one Midlands high school are wondering what happened to a popular soccer coach and why.
Brookland-Cayce's head coach, Kevin Heise, is on "administrative leave," according to a school website maintained by that coach. Heise had been coaching boys soccer at Brookland-Cayce High School for years.
From his home in Lexington County, Ernie Peagler's doing all he can to support an embattled coach.
"There were rumors about him being fired or terminated. Nobody knew what happened for weeks," he said.
Peagler said he was inspired to investigate because his son plays soccer for the school, and he said his son flourished under Heise.
"Kevin inspired him the whole time. Kevin teaches the kids that they need to be good students, they need to show respect, and he teaches them how to be better soccer players," Peagler said of the coach, who's one of the winningest soccer coaches in the state.
From what Peagler can tell, Heise was placed on leave after a Feb. 9 incident inside a Brookland-Cayce classroom.
Peagler said the frustrated coach and teacher gave his class a passionate lecture of tough love that day.
"I would call it more of a life lecture. I didn't hear anybody say anything about him yelling," Peagler said. "He referenced 'thugs' and 'rednecks' in a way like, 'You know, if you don't apply yourselves, you can go down that road of becoming a thug.' And he talked about rednecks at parts, from what I understand."
He said Heise also reportedly mentioned the salary of the school's athletic director, mentioned two students by name, and talked about student accountability, grades, and work ethic.
Peagler said a recording of the comments does exist, but no parties have obtained a copy at this point.
"I think if the district released the audio, if they can, it would clear up a lot of things," he said.
Meanwhile, the district (or its attorney) won't comment on or even acknowledge the situation, since it doesn't comment on personnel matters.
Peagler believes Heise shouldn't be fired but should instead be reinstated and allowed to teach and coach students like his own son.
"I was having dinner with my son. I was trying to explain to him that, you know, whatever happens, it's God's plan," Peagler said through tears. "Sometimes, we don't understand God's plan, and then, my son said, 'But Dad, you don't understand.' He said, 'Coach Heise has taken a special interest in me.'"
Peagler and others believe Heise is being targeted by leadership at Brookland-Cayce.
However, Athletic Director Rusty Charpia said it has nothing do with him or coaching. He said it's simply about a classroom situation.
Heise has hired an attorney. We've reached out to her but hasn't heard back yet. Ultimately, there are still more questions than there are concrete answers right now.
Thursday night, the Lexington District Two will have a meeting. Even though the soccer coach issue isn't on the agenda, many parents who support the suspended coach will likely show up.
By the way, the South Carolina High School Soccer Coaches Association has also weighed in with a post online.
"While we choose not to go into details about the reasoning behind this decision by BCHS, it is our opinion that the recommended punishment does not meet the alleged infractions," leaders wrote in the forum post. "Over his past 27 years Kevin has gone above and beyond his job requirements to improve the lives of BCHS students, promote and improve the reputation of BCHS, grow the game of soccer at BCHS and throughout South Carolina, help to place young students in college situations where they have a chance to continue their athletic careers, and help fellow coaches learn and understand the roles and responsibilities of their position."
To read more of what the coaches association had to say, click here.