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Deer Lakes opens football coach position

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 11:00 p.m.
Deer Lakes head football coach Todd Hazlett. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Deer Lakes has opened its head football coach position although Todd Hazlett — the only coach to guide the Lancers to the WPIAL playoffs in their 44-year history — planned to return for a seventh season.

Hazlett said he was told during a meeting with athletic director Chuck Bellisario about a week ago that the district would advertise the job and accept applications.

“There was no indication why,” Hazlett said. “I believe the comment was that they want the best candidate they can find.”

Bellisario couldn't be reached for comment by telephone or email.

In 2010, Hazlett guided Deer Lakes to a 7-3 record and the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. Since then, the Lancers have stumbled to a 5-14 mark.

Technically, Hazlett hasn't been fired. Deer Lakes, like many districts, awards coaches a one-year contract. However, Hazlett said his exit interview with the athletic director this year differed from past interviews because he was informed the district would seek other applicants.

Deer Lakes School Board President Lisa Merlo confirmed the coaching position has been opened.

“Anybody is free to apply, including Mr. Hazlett,” Merlo said.

Hazlett, 39, is a second-grade teacher at Curtisville Primary Center in the Deer Lakes School District. He's in his second season as coach of the varsity boys and girls swim teams, although he admits he has no background in that sport and took the position because the school needed somebody to fill that role.

Hazlett played football at Deer Lakes before graduating in 1991. He hasn't decided if he will reapply for the football position.

“I just don't know,” Hazlett said. “It's been a great experience. I have a lot of good memories. It's really been rewarding, and I've enjoyed the opportunity.”

Merlo said any specific reasons that prompted the opening regarding Hazlett is a personnel issue that only can be discussed in executive session, which isn't open to the public.

Bellisario and the school board's athletic committee will review applicants, conduct interviews and make a recommendation to the school board.

“I have to let the process run its course,” Merlo said. “I don't have any comments at this time.”

At Monday's school board meeting, several players spoke in support of Hazlett, including junior running back/linebacker Brandon Newmaster.

“I think Coach Hazlett is a great person and great coach,” Newmaster said during a phone interview Tuesday. “We need him to stay so we can keep building our team. It makes things harder if we keep switching coaches.”

Deer Lakes' next school board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4, which probably is too soon to expect a candidate to be presented for approval, Merlo said. Most likely, the school board will vote on the football post in January or February, she said.

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pkogut@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.

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