BURRELL TOWNSHIP — District residents and football players questioned members of the Blairsville-Saltsburg school board about the recent resignation of Blairsville head football coach Ab Dettorre at Wednesday’s meeting.
Dettorre, who served as head football coach for 26 seasons, had decided to retire as a physical education teacher but planned to stay on as an associate athletic director and football coach.
But he later announced his retirement, citing problems with the school board and superintendent.
He was told earlier that week, he said, that the weight room would be off limits this summer due to construction, among other reasons.
“I’ve alluded to a lot of things over the years, and it’s just a culmination,” he said in a June 7 story in the Gazette. “I can’t fight the battles anymore.”
His decision to retire was announced to the district June 6 in a one-sentence resignation letter.
Dettorre was not present at the meeting.
District resident Leisa Noel spoke during a public comment session at the board meeting Wednesday, saying that what students will remember most from high school are the special events, such as sports. She stressed the importance of high school sports and said, for some students, it is the motivation that keeps them in school.
Football, she said, provides a positive sense of self, and Dettorre was the man at the center of that program.
She alleged the board played a role in his departure, and said his retirement should’ve been on his terms.
Addressing her concerns, B. Edward Smith, board president, said “Abby’s a great man,” and that Smith was “dumbfounded” when Dettorre announced his retirement.
He and Dettorre are neighbors, Smith said, and recently had a conversation about how Dettorre intended to remain as coach for a few more years.
Smith said he had no idea “why he (Dettorre) chose this,” a comment that brought sarcastic laughter from Dettorre’s supporters in the audience.
Later in the meeting, the board voted 7-2 to accept Dettorre’s resignation, with members Holly Gibson and Rick Harper against the motion.
Gibson and Harper also voted against advertising to fill the head coaching position for the 2013-14 year.