by Malik Vincent
The whirlwind of Athletic reform continues to raise questions and concerns about what is what in the City League with the latest being former Schenley Coach Jason Bell being bypassed for the new head coaching job.
This year, the combining of the old Schenley and Peabody teams into the new USO team, comprised of University Prep (Milliones), Sci-Tech (Frick), and Obama Academy, created a coaching vacancy for that school’s sports teams while eliminating jobs at the old schools. Neither of the two football programs had their leaders brought back as head coach of the city’s newest squad. All the other sports are also up in the air.
Bell, the former Spartans’ head coach, led his 2009 team to its first title in a decade. Not to mention, led it through one of the city’s biggest tragedies in 2010 when its former player, Jeron Grayson, was shot and killed during a party at California University of Pennsylvania’s homecoming last October.
In city athletics, though it’s not mandatory, said Andre McGee, Obama Academy Athletic Director, there are some cases that when athletic employees in the district are hired, teachers are given first preference. Bell, though employed, is not a teacher in the district.
Leonard Carter, former head coach of Peabody did not apply for the new position. He had coached the Highlanders for more than 20 years.
“It was obviously out of our control that the school closed,” McGee said. “I keep getting phone calls and I find myself explaining the situation over and over as to why we couldn’t bring him back as the coach. He’s a great guy. I consider him a friend and I was in on the interview process, but it’s more of an HR issue as to why he didn’t receive the job.”
Hykeem Moore, a 2009 New Pittsburgh Courier All-City first team offensive and defensive selection, is in his second season with Lackawanna College in Scranton, PA. He had a strong opinion of why his former coach wasn’t selected for the job.
“The fact that he took Schenley to its first title in years and the fact that he took them farthest they’ve ever been in the states makes me really confused as to why he didn’t get the job,” Moore said. “It’s like asking a guy from (the University of) Toledo to take over the job for Joe Paterno at Penn State. To me, it’s very disrespectful.”
The coping process of Grayson’s death, according to Moore, didn’t come easy. He noted that if it weren’t for the help of Bell and his coaching staff, they might not have coped with it as well as they did.
“Football isn’t just about X’s and O’s,” Moore stated. “It’s also about what you deal with off the field, as well. There are certain things that (coach Bell) brought to the table that made our lives better as young men. When (Grayson) died, and if anything like that happened, there was no doubt that Bell was going to be there with us every step of the way.”
The team will now play under the tutelage of former Peabody defensive coordinator Lewis Berry, who has been an assistant for several years. He is a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
McGee also indicated that though Bell wasn’t brought back, many members of his staff were.
“We have members of each of the former program’s staff represented on this year’s USO team,” McGee said.
Pittsburgh Board of Education member and league liaison, Mark Brentley, who said he was uninformed of the change, is also unsatisfied with the move.
“I’m concerned that with someone with such a great track record was pushed aside for the job,” Brentley said. “It’s an indication of the leadership. The district and its administration and its athletics are on its way to a slow death. “
(Malik Vincent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)