Former Gateway football coach takes his game to Temple
Former Gateway athletic director and football coach Terry Smith said a job in the college ranks has been a lifelong goal.
Though he said politics forced him to leave his high school alma mater, he's happy with where he's landing.
Smith this week accepted a job at Temple University as the new wide receivers coach and is starting immediately.
“The Gateway School Board pushed me out of the nest, but I found my wings,” Smith said Tuesday. “I always wanted to coach Division I athletics at a major conference school. Now I have the opportunity to do that.”
Smith has a wife and two children. His salary at Temple will be $150,000, he said.
School board President Steve O'Donnell said Smith will be better off in a program that allows him to recruit players.
“His job will be to recruit southwestern Pennsylvania, and it will be OK,” O'Donnell said.“It will be valued.”
He also said of the controversial coach's departure: “There's a party going on. We'd be dancing in the streets if wasn't so cold outside.”
School director Bill Bailey was one of two who voted against the 2012-13 Gateway budget, which in effect, reduced Smith's position to part time. His pay for this school year was to be about $45,000. He made about $95,000 the previous year.
“No. 1, he'll have money to take care of his family, since the other board members reduced his pay in half,” said Bailey, a Smith supporter.
As for Smith's critics, “it could diffuse a lot of the animosity some people have had against Terry, seeing that he has moved up based on his record as a coach,” Bailey said.
A decision by the Gateway School Board in June to reduce the athletic director position from full-time to half time and prohibit an athletic director from also coaching was fervently contested by some parents who said the decision was a personal one. Some – including the Allegheny East branch of the NAACP — said a move to push out Smith was racially motivated.
Smith filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October, that said the decision to reduce his position to half-time was racially motivated. Despite news that he is leaving the district, one of Smith's attorneys, Domenic A. Bellisario, said they are not withdrawing the complaint.
Members of the school board who voted in favor of reducing the position to half time said the decision was made in an effort to reduce a budget deficit last year and that an athletic director who also is a coach might show favoritism for that sport.
Smith supporters lashed out at school board meetings last summer, telling the board that Smith is a father figure for some students, and a positive role model for black students in the district.
“I don't think it's going to be the same without him,” junior Delvon Randall said. “He was more than a coach to me; he's like a father figure. ... I don't think any coach could ever replace him.”
The focus now should be on student-athletes seeking college scholarships for 2013-14, said Tammy Richardson, a Smith supporter who had helped form a community organization to, in part, fight for Smith's full-time status and coaching position next year.
“He offered credibility for kids who otherwise might not have a chance in front of college coaches,” Richardson said. “We are blowing opportunities for kids who may not otherwise have an opportunity to go to school without assistance financially.”
Some people have accused Smith of recruiting players from other school districts, which violates WPIAL and district rules. A few Gateway players were investigated by the WPIAL this school year, but all were cleared to play.
However, one player's transfer was denied by the WPIAL and the decision was overturned by the PIAA.
Across the region and as of October, of the 108 cases that had hearings before the WPIAL Board of Control since 2007, 60 percent were ruled ineligible. All but a handful of those decisions have been reversed by the PIAA Board of Directors.
Under Smith, the Gateway football program was a powerhouse in Pennsylvania and garnered national attention.
Smith was head coach for 11 seasons and compiled a 101-30 record. His teams reached the playoffs every year, and Gateway was WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up four times.
“It was disappointing for us,” junior Anthony Davis said, “but it's a good move for him and his family.”
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Chris Harlan contributed to this report. He can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @ChrisHarlanTrib.