Opposing coaches noticed the improvements the Bulldogs made throughout this past season, and several parents and former players believed in head football coach Mike Pendolino.

But seven seasons into his career, and just one year after the team’s first postseason berth in 10 years, Crawford Central School Board made a 7 to 2 vote Monday in favor of not extending Pendolino’s contract, due to

recommendations from the administration.

Pendolino had compiled a 21-47 overall record during his tenure, with one winning season (6-5, 2008) and one winless (0-10, 2006).

A few board members made mention that their vote in no way reflected how they felt about Pendolino as a teacher or a person, and that the decision was not solely based on wins and losses.

“Mr. Pendolino is a very honorable man,” said Crawford Central School Board President Jan VanTuil prior to the meeting Monday. “I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Pendolino, who was very respectful to our kids. Mike Pendolino is a man of great integrity and was a faithful coach to the District. I want to thank him for his years of dedicated service.”

Board members Asuman Baskan and Richard Curry cast the two dissenting votes.

Baskan prefaced her vote with a prepared statement expressing disappointment that her long-standing belief that athletics and academics complimented one another has apparently been mistaken because the district was preparing to release someone “admired by all.”

Richard Curry, recently retired from the English faculty at Meadville Area Senior High School, agreed, observing that he never heard a single complaint about Pendolino in all the years the coach taught right down the hall from Curry’s own classroom.”

Board member and former Meadville wrestling coach Mitch Roe cast his vote based on his experience in that arena.

“As a coach, you have to have support,” said Roe, who also recently retired from Crawford Central School District. “As much as I like him — you have to have the support of the people — and the coaches — under you. That’s gone.” Noting that wins and losses made no difference in his decision, Roe voted to begin the search for a replacement.

After explaining that he played under Pendolino during his school days, Kevin Maziarz said that his vote was based on the recommendation put forth by the administration. “It’s no reflection on him (as a man),” Maziarz said.

“I want him to stay on as a teacher, but it’s time to move on and try a different approach on the football field,” board member Frank Schreck said before the meeting.

Superintendent Michael Dolecki said after the meeting that an evaluation process for all coaches takes place after the end of each season. Following the evaluation at the end of the 2009 football season, the athletic director and the principal both recommended that position not be offered to Pendolino. “I supported their decision,” he said.

“We appreciate his efforts that he made and the improvements he made to Meadville football,” athletic director Greg Williams said. “We hope we’re able to find someone who can build on things he accomplished and continue to move us forward.

“We evaluate coaches every year in fall, winter and spring sports. I can’t speak completely on the evaluation because it’s a personnel issue. It’s an ongoing process and this was the culmination.”

Their recommendation, Dolecki continued, was based on a belief that the program needed to move in a new direction. “They recognized many good things — but they felt it was in the best interest of the school district to move in a different direction,” he said, declining to elaborate. The decision, he stressed, “was not all based on winning and losing.”

As for that new direction, in-house candidates will first be considered, and Williams said the school board would like to move fast on finding a replacement.

“When someone decides to resign or leave their position, we look inside first,” Williams said. “If we don’t feel comfortable or don’t have an applicant, then we’ll advertise outside the district. From the information I have, we want to try to fill the position by the January board meeting. Things are done outside the season that are pretty important. We don’t want to leave it open very long.”

He also affirmed that Pendolino will be able to re-apply for the position.

Pendolino did not return a phone message from the Tribune Monday evening.

Six-year assistant Bill Noel was the only person to come forward with a possible in-house candidate.

“Of the people in-house, I am sure there are a few who are qualified,” Noel said. “Ken Achenbach would come to mind. I played for him, and he was certainly a great mentor, but that would merely be speculation.”

Achenbach coached Meadville from 1984-99 with an 84-71 record.

T.J. Turrisi can be reached at 724-6370, ext. 276 or by e-mail at tjturrisi@meadvilletribune.com. Mary Spicer and Lisa Byers contributed to this story.

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