Coach loses post after taking team member to prom

(CBS News) CONDON, Ore. - A popular Oregon volunteer track coach admits she made a mistake in going to the high school prom with a member of the team.

Melissa Bowerman says nothing inappropriate happened -- only a little dancing and ping-pong.

But then she was dismissed, just before the team could celebrate its championship season. Bowerman, 41, may never coach the Condon High School team again.

Trevor Thomas, 17, says he asked Bowerman because she'd never been to a prom.

"It was like taking your mother to a dance," he says.

Bowerman notes she had an ulterior motive for accepting.

"This particular student was on my list as one to talk to about some issues at school," Bowerman says.

So she saw it as a counseling opportunity?

"Yeah. And I said, 'Let's make a deal. That'll be fun. Just talk to your parents. And I'll go home and talk to my husband about it."'

"She was trying to help one of our student-athletes be a better student," says Melissa's husband, John Bowerman.

Asked if there was ever any question in his mind that Trevor would be in safe hands, Trevor's father, Bob Thomas, replied, "None whatsoever."

Melissa and John Bowerman are standout citizens in eastern Oregon. John's father help found Nike. And Nike's support has helped his son build the athletic programs at two local high schools.

Still, after the prom, the school superintendent reprimanded Melissa and stripped her of her volunteer coaching job.

And that, she says, caught her off-guard.

"This has turned out to be a disaster," Melissa Bowerman says.

Following protocol, the school district asked Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt to investigate.

"As soon as I got into second or third interview, it was very clear to me there was nothing criminal, " Bettencourt says. His investigation found nothing sexual in nature occurred.

Bowerman insists her relationship with Trevor never crossed the line.

"I have a relationship with every kid on that team, but nothing of any sinister nature."

Nothing sexual?

"No," was her swift reply.

At a track team award ceremony Wednesday night, there was plenty of support for the fired coach.

She signed the back of Trevor's T-shirt, and they hugged.

To see Michelle Miller's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

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