An Ohio high school football coach has agreed to allow a convicted teen rapist to rejoin the team.

Steubenville High School coach Reno Saccoccia says Ma'lik Richmond has earned a second chance.

"I feel that we're really not giving him a second chance," Saccoccia told WTVR-TV. "Some may look at it like that. I feel he has earned a second chance.”

He said Richmond is one of 55 players who are “in good standing” with coaches and teammates.

Richmond was convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl and sentenced to at least one year in the state juvenile system in March. He was credited for the time he served before his trial.

“It was a horrible crime. It was a horrible crime,” Saccoccia told the news station. “Everything the judicial system of Ohio asked him to do, he completed.”

He was 17 at the time of his conviction and must register as a sex offender for the next 20 years, Fox Sports reported.

“We don't deal in death sentences for juvenile activity and I just feel that he's earned a second chance,” Saccoccia added. “I've thought about it hard and I'm going with that decision.”

Richmond and classmate Trent Mays, also convicted of rape, were the star players for the team at the time of the 2012 incident.

Saccoccia’s name was mentioned in text messages sent by Mays just days after the crime. In one of them, Mays alleged that Reno had joked about the rape.

"I got Reno. He took care of it and sh** ain't gonna happen, even if they did take it to court," one text said, Cleveland.com reported.

Saccoccia was not called to testify at the trial. A Change.org petition started in 2013 calling for his dismissal has more than 130,000 signatures. A petition supporting him has 741 signatures.

Sources: Fox Sports, Cleveland.com, WTVR-TV

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Rik Jones