FOX 5 Morning News Poll: Are you taking time off for the holidays?

Supporters petition Coronado school board to reinstate coach accused of assault

CORONADO, Calif. -- At a Coronado Unified School District board meeting Thursday, dozens of supporters rallied to the aid of a widely celebrated retired water polo coach who is battling an allegation of molestation.

Following a recent accusation that 34-year veteran school teacher Randy Burgess molested a middle school student in 2011, he was placed on administrative leave in April and has not been allowed back on campus since.

While nearly everyone at the meeting was praising Burgess' record of training players who go on to become Navy SEALs, college champions and Olympians, others applauded the board's action to place Burgess on paid leave.

"I really am impressed by all your accomplishments in the Olympics and CIF titles and everyone becoming doctors and lawyers but what I care about is that the students are safe," one woman said.

Because the demand to reinstate Burgess as a teacher was not on the agenda, no action was taken at the meeting. But as of Thursday, a petition to reinstate Burgess had garnered nearly 1,200 signatures.

Burgess, who said he has nothing to hide, spoke with FOX 5 after the meeting.

"It never happened. I think if the district had done a progressive follow-up and done their research they would have found out very quickly that the allegations were false," Burgess said.

When Burgess, who describes himself as a tough but fair coach, found out who was accusing him, he said, "In a way, I felt kind of relieved in that I don't know who this is. This has got to be an error, this has got to be a joke. It was just very hard to believe. It was a nightmare."