Blairsville football coach Dettorre announces retirement after 26 seasons
The last straw finally hit Ab Dettorre.
Told earlier this week that his team would not be allowed to use the weight room this summer, he decided it was time to retire from coaching football at Blairsville High School after 26 seasons as head coach.
Dettorre had intended to coach next season and had already sent out an itinerary to football players for summer workouts. He planned to start workouts Tuesday.
Instead, saying that that he “just can’t get anything done with the school board and superintendent,” Dettorre abruptly retired.
“Everything is a battle,” he said this morning from his home in Blairsville. “Maybe it’s just time for some fresh blood in there.”
Dettorre made the decision to retire Thursday, submitting a one-sentence resignation letter.
District Superintendent Tammy Whitfield could not be immediately reached for comment this morning.
“It was second period yesterday morning,” Dettorre said. “One of the things that led to it was that I was told we’re not allowed to use the weight room this summer because of roofing construction. It just doesn’t make any sense.
“We went through renovation down here, and they absolutely gutted the school and we were in the building the whole time with equipment going up and down the halls. This is just another situation.
“I’ve alluded to a lot of things over the years, and it’s just a culmination. I can’t fight the battles anymore. It’s sad. Coaching is something I wanted to do, and I just think maybe somebody else can go in there with a fresh start and accomplish things I was just not able to do anymore. It’s just time for a change.”
Dettorre succeeded Ernie Widmar as head coach at his alma mater in 1987. He compiled a 147-99-4 record and led his team to six conference championships, including four straight in the Heritage Conference from 2002 to 2005. He was inducted into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame last month.
Blairsville finished 6-4 last season. Several juniors from that team and a large sophomore class return next season.
“One of the only good things I can say about it is in the back of my mind I’ve never forgotten that Ernie Widmar left me with a loaded team,” Dettorre said. “They were good as juniors and awesome as seniors, and I think the scenario is set again. There’s a very good team led by a few seniors who I think can be very good this year … and a majority of the kids who start will be back the next year, too.”
Dettorre didn’t rule out the possibility of returning next season, but he considered the chance slim.
“Probably in the right scenario with the right kind of backing and support, because you need that,” he said. “I was planning to start Tuesday morning, and then to find out there’s no weight room at the last minute … it’s just been a constant barrage of ‘What’s next?’”
Dettorre had decided to retire as a physical education teacher but planned to stay on as an associate athletic director and football coach, citing the need to be at the school and be around the students throughout the school day.
“I really didn’t want to do that either,” he said of retiring from teaching, “but the overall morale was starting to get to me.”
Dettorre said he hasn’t thought about his future.
“There have been suggestions about coaching elsewhere, but I don’t want to coach against my own kids,” he said. “My family, I probably neglected them for the last 33 years, and my son is getting married this summer. He called me this morning and said I could move in with him from Wednesday through Saturday and coach the Bobcats in his high school district at Northeastern (in York County).
“But everything has happened so rapidly that I haven’t given thought to what I’m going to do. If I had my way, I’d rather be with my kids, but there doesn’t seem to be any inclination or any interest of that happening.”
Dettorre said he retired with great regret.
“I feel really bad. I really do,” he said. “It’s not what I really wanted. I still enjoy the kids tremendously and the people I work with. I’m not going to lie: I’m going to miss it a lot. I don’t know how I’ll react to that first game. But nothing has wavered in the community. The support has always been there, from the local businesses, the fans, the student body. I don’t do a lot of Facebook, but my friends have told me there have been a lot of kind things put out there. It’s a sad day.”
He also said he hoped one of his assistant coaches would be hired as head coach. Most of the staff has been with Dettorre for 10 or more years.
“There are some great kids on this team, and not just athletically, but on the personality side,” he said, “and I hope one of my guys gets the opportunity to continue with this because the players deserve that, and they deserve it in a hurry. This is not something that can be put off until August.”