Tragesser resigns as Norwin football coach
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One week after Norwin officials reaffirmed their decision to bring back their current football coach for another season, the district is looking for a new one.
The school board, without discussion, voted 7-2 on Monday to accept football coach Art Tragesser's resignation after four seasons. Board member Ray Kocak voted against accepting Tragesser's resignation, and board member Thomas Sturm voted “present.”
“I would just like to express my appreciation for the chance to have a job coaching here at Norwin,” Tragesser said Monday night. “I got a chance to work with some great people on the coaching staff, the faculty, the administration, the school board and kids. I was very appreciative of that opportunity. I have a lot of really good memories of being here at Norwin.”
Norwin athletic director Brandon Rapp said Tuesday the district would now begin searching for a new football coach, with no set timetable for finding Tragesser's replacement.
“The Norwin athletic department would like to thank coach Art Tragesser for his contributions and commitment to our football program, as well as his dedication to our student-athletes over the last four years,” Rapp said. “We wish him the best in the future.”
Tragesser compiled a record of 9-28 in his four seasons at Norwin, including 4-23 the past three seasons and 2-7 in 2013.
Still, the school board voted last month to renew Tragesser's contract for the 2014 season. The decision was met with displeasure from parents, who recently met with Rapp to discuss concerns about the football program. About 40 parents attended a board meeting last week to voice their displeasure with the board's decision to bring back Tragesser, which the board reaffirmed at the meeting.
Tragesser said he decided to resign when he heard about the parents' thoughts on his return for another season.
“I don't want to be a wedge,” he said. “I don't want to be a hindrance to the Norwin football program moving forward. I think it will move forward here in the future and become a solid program for years to come. Obviously, I'd just be a block, a hindrance to kids achieving that, and I did not want that to happen. It's better off I step aside.”
Frank Pulkownik of North Huntingdon, who was against Tragesser returning for another season, said Monday night he hoped Tragesser's departure “is a step in the right direction” for the football program.
“Everyone in society is expected to perform their job responsibilities at high levels,” Pulkownik said via email Tuesday morning. “Results are measured, and we are all held accountable. The head football coach at Norwin should be expected to perform to the same standard.”
Tragesser said he received support over the past few weeks from board members, administrators, faculty, assistant coaches, community members and players and their parents, and he said he appreciated the support.
Before coming to Norwin in 2010, Tragesser coached at Penn-Trafford and Jeannette, winning 162 games in 23 seasons before resigning from Penn-Trafford in 2008. He spent the 2009 season as an assistant coach at Latrobe before being hired by Norwin in February 2010.
Norwin went 5-5 in Tragesser's first season, losing to Woodland Hills in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. The Knights then went 0-9 in 2011, a season that included an 85-0 loss to Gateway, before finishing 2-7 each of the past two years.
That record, along with other concerns about the program, led parents to voice their concerns about the team's future.
“Obviously, there's some people that feel that I'm not the best person for the Norwin football program moving forward, and I can respect that,” Tragesser said. “After all, the record the last three years hasn't been the best. But I feel we have the program now in a good position. The seventh- and eighth-grade teams have been really competitive the last several years, the ninth-grade team has been very competitive the last several years and the JV program has been very competitive.
“I feel the program is at a point right now where it has a chance to really take off.”
After 45 years of coaching football, Tragesser said he wasn't sure about his future plans.
“The part I'll miss the most is just the coaching part of it,” he said. “To me, coaching is a fraternity, and through the years I've had a chance to come into contact with a lot of different people around the game of football and made some friends. I enjoyed it tremendously, the camaraderie I had with other coaches with Norwin and outside of Norwin. There'll be no bigger supporter for Norwin than me.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib. Staff writer Tony LaRussa contributed to this story.
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