It was an intense scene at Monroeville (PA) Gateway High School on Wednesday night, as the fate of head football coach and athletic director Terry Smith was the hot topic. The Gateway school board called for this special meeting, which brought in a heavy amount of concerns from parents, current players, former players, colleagues and other members of the community.
Since taking over his alma mater in 2002, Smith has guided the Gators to 10 consecutive playoff berths, a record of 92-28 during that span, and an unprecedented number of athletes--unofficially 80 players announced at the meeting--to either FBS or FCS scholarships.
Heading into Wednesday night's meeting, it was decided by the school board that Smith's athletic director position would be reduced from full-time to half-time--a change in salary of $95,000 to just over $45,000. Initially, the school board wanted to open Smith's coaching position for the coming season--which would start in a little over a month. Instead, the board reconsidered to keep Smith as head coach for at least this season. After December 31, 2012, the job is slated to become open. However, another public meeting will most likely be held to once again open it up for discussion.
If Smith learned anything Wednesday night, he should know he has an Army of supporters, in cases he didn't know before. There were 79 people who signed up to approach the school board with their concerns. All but three were in support of Smith. Nearly the entire Gateway football team approached the school board.
For this current class of 2013, quarterback Thomas Woodson and fullback Jaymar Parrish have committed to the University of Arizona and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively. One of the things Woodson offered the school board, was Gateway's reputation when playing in out-of-state competition. For example, in 2007, the Gators traveled to Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium for an out-of-state matchup with Youngstown (OH Cardinal Mooney. The Gators recently completed a home-and-away series with Harrisburg (PA) Bishop McDevitt, and are one of the few teams in the area to compete with talent from out of the area.
Additionally, the team has traveled to schools such as Rutgers, Michigan and Toledo over the last two summers, competing at various 7-on-7 passing camps.
"When we go out of state, people know us," Woodson said. "It's crazy."
Parrish, who committed to the Panthers in the spring, credited Smith with helping him get some exposure.
"I would like to thank (the school board) for letting my coach keep his job," Parrish said. "But, he needs to be full time A.D. He's the reason I'm going to Pitt right now."
Montae Nicholson, who got his name out on the camp circuit this summer--resulting in offers from Michigan, Penn State and Pittsburgh just to name a few--spoke at great length about the relationship with his coach. Nicholson got teary-eyed towards the end, but still managed to finish his speech at the urging of his teammates.
"Honestly, Coach Terry has helped me since I came to Gateway." Nicholson said. "I wouldn't be the football player or the man I am today without him. When I first came to Gateway, I was just a little guy. I suffered from a concussiom. Coach Terry got me a special helmet. From then on, I knew he'd always be there."
Nicholson, emotional, paused for a brief moment, then finished up what he had to say.
"There's really not much to say," Nicholson added. "Other than it's unfair what you're doing to him. What you're doing to him is wrong."
There were even some current Pitt players in the audience, simply to observe. Defensive lineman Khaynin Mosley-Smith--who played his high school at neighboring Woodland Hills--came to the meeting just to support. Shayne Hale, who played at Gateway, was also there. Manny Williams from nearby Clairton and Salath Williams were also in attendance--simply to observe.
Wednesday night's meeting lasted approximately three hours. After opening and listening to concerns and complaints for the first two hours, the board called for a 15-minute recess to for "personnel reasons." When they resumed the meeting at 9:30, they listened to more residents and students for another half hour, before voting 8-1 to keep Smith on as coach for the 2012 season, and abruptly ending the meeting just after 10 pm.