Dalton out as Trinity coach
12/12/2009 3:31 AM
Ed Dalton won more football games than all but one coach in the history of Trinity High School. His two playoff victories doubled the school's all-time total and he shipped players to all levels of collegiate competiton, from Ohio State and Penn State to Waynesburg and Denison.
Over an 11-year span, the Hillers transformed themselves from local laughingstock to respectable program under Dalton's direction.
As of Thursday night, Hillers football will take a new direction after the Trinity School Board opened all fall coaching positions, including Dalton's positions of football coach and athletic director.
"Sometimes change is inevitable," Dalton said Friday. "Sadly, in many ways, this is my life. I don't hunt. I don't fish. I don't golf. I coach football."
Dalton came to Trinity in 1999 after successful coaching stops at Homer-Center, Mt. Pleasant and Altoona. His contract as athletic director expires in June and will not be renewed.
The man who nixed the annual game with Washington following the 1999 contest - Trinity and Washington agreed to resume the series in 2006 only to have it nixed by WPIAL realignment - and created the Recreation League for youth players, Dalton was informed of the decision by a phone call late Thursday.
"It's very cowardly," Dalton said. "At least have the human decency and the blasted courage to come up to me and say it's time for change."
Four new members took their seats at Thursday's meeting and Tom Bodnovich was elected president of the school board. Among the controversial changes made was the opening of coaching positions for boys soccer, girls soccer, boys cross country, girls cross country, boys golf, girls volleyball and girls tennis.
Some coaches, such as girls cross country coach Jim Faiella, boys cross country coach Donald Zimak and boys golf coach Jim Osborn, were long-time coaches in the district. Trinity hired boys soccer and girls volleyball coaches before the fall sports season.
Bodnovich declined comment Friday when contacted by the Observer-Reporter.
The oft-outspoken Dalton had plenty to say.
"I don't know any of the new board members. I had about two conversations with two of them. They don't know me. They don't know anything about me," Dalton said. "(Bodnovich) comes to school unannounced sometimes and I thought our relationship was cordial. He'd ask me for free tickets to games and parking passes for away games."
Dalton went 54-56 in 11 years at Trinity. Only Milton Decker, who accumulated 95 victories from 1937-1957, won more games.
"He'd done a great job as AD," Trinity School Board member Jerry Chambers said. "He's done an outstanding job as football coach."
Trinity went 4-6 in 2009 but qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for a fifth consecutive year and the sixth time during Dalton's tenure. The Hillers won two playoff games - one in Class AAAA and another in Class AAA.
They also produced a long list of college players, including Andrew Miller and Andrew Sweat (Ohio State), Michael Yancich (Penn State), Brandon Weaver (Ohio) and Cody Endres (Connecticut). Senior Ken Wilkins is headed to Michigan next fall.
"We have a program now," Dalton said. "We might not be Thomas Jefferson and we might not be in the No. 1 spot at our school in terms of success, but in the school culture we're in the No. 1 spot."
The news stunned many of Dalton's former players and coaches. He estimated no fewer than 100 players contacted him as of Friday afternoon.
"I'm a little shocked," Endres said. "I don't really get to keep tabs on the team but Coach Dalton had a lot of things to offer. He gave me a lot of insight and he did a tremendous job with recruiting. He always had great relationships with college coaches. He made everyone feel comfortable during the process."
Despite the number of Division I recruits, Trinity failed to win a conference championship, make a lengthy postseason run or, with the exception of a 20-17 upset of Penn Hills in the 2005 WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, register a signature win.
"We didn't win every game and some of the expectations we had were created by myself because I wanted expectations. Sometimes, I exaggerated," Dalton said. "People forget that the Mercy Rule used to be called the Trinity Rule in Washington County. We're not that team anymore."
North Franklin Township Police Chief Rich Horner said that North Franklin Police were called to Trinity High School around 11:30 a.m. Friday for "a very loud, lively discussion between a board member and an athletic director."
He would not identify the board member and said no police action was taken, but the incident is still being investigated.
Staff writer Dawn Goodman contributed to this report.
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