by Smokin’ Jim Frazier
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Coach Terry Smith is the greatest athlete in Gateway High School history. In 1986 he led the Gators to a state championship. He was the head football coach at Gateway for the last 11-years and finished his career as Gateway’s highest winning percentage coach with a 77% winning record. He was 101-30 in his 11 seasons as head coach.
In June the school board voted to reduce his athletic director position from full-time to part-time and cut his salary in half. Smith filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, in October that said the decision was racially motivated. He is not withdrawing the complaint.
Coach Smith recently accepted a job as wide-receivers coach and passing game coordinator for the Temple University Owls football team. His salary at Temple will be $150,000, he said.
Smith, who was an assistant coach at Duquesne University from 1997 to 2000, said he will be Temple’s recruiting coordinator for the Pittsburgh area, as well as the areas around State College, Johnstown, Erie and into Ohio.
“I was blessed to have good coaches around me. Michael Booth, a Brashear graduate, has been with me all 11 years, from day one to the very end,” Smith said. “There were a number of other coaches who were major parts of the program.”
Football is like the Art of War, so creating your competitive exit strategy is somewhat similar to the military carefully calculating and planning a battle strategy necessary to win a war. When did coach Smith decide to pursue the Owls?
“I never applied to Temple. They came to me,’ Smith said.
“This is something that I always wanted to do, but I didn’t know if I would ever get the opportunity to do it. Our goal is to win a Big East conference championship.”
Smith was honored in September 2010 by the New Pittsburgh Courier as one of the 50 Men of Excellence and has been one of the top coaches in the WPIAL. In 11 seasons at Gateway, Smith sent 23 players to NCAA Division I-A colleges and 17 more to Division I-AA colleges.
Despite all his success he has been under the microscope from the start, the scrutiny even more intense than normal because he was a first-time head coach and because he is Black.
A private investigator was hired by the Gateway school board in November, by then-school board President Dave Magill and then-Vice President Steve O’Donnell, and found no improprieties.
Making an often arrogant and out-of-touch institution such as the school board look like a paragon of common sense is no easy task. But Coach Smith somehow found a way to do exactly that last week.
“Gateway hired a private investigator to check into every single player on our roster and they found nothing,” said Smith. “They spent over $4,000 for this investigation. When you run a program that is first class and you put kids first you would think that money could have been used more wisely.”
It is believed that now that Coach Smith has moved on that the Athletic Director’s job will be restored to full-time status.
So look for this wise old Owl to meet with the district officials along with his attorney (Milton Raiford), the EEOC legal staff and defeat the Gateway School Board and win a Big East Conference football championship in 2013.