Vote forces Smith out as Gateway coach after 2012

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Embattled Gateway football coach Terry Smith will keep his position for next season, but his future beyond that is in doubt.

The Gateway school board approved a resolution by an 8-1 vote that would prevent the athletic director -- a position Smith holds -- from having a supplemental contract as the school's football coach.

That stipulation would not go into effect until after the 2012 football season.

On June 27, the board had approved its budget for the new school year and cut Smith's athletic director's position to part time. The $65 million budget had several cuts designed to help a district struggling financially.

Under the proposal approved Wednesday, the new athletic director's position would be paid a salary of $45,000, along with half medical, dental and disability benefits. Effective Dec. 31, 2012, the athletic director would be prohibited from holding supplemental contracts.

Smith said he was not surprised with the board's decision. "It's not disappointing. I'm relieved at the fact I can coach. I'm optimistic that we're halfway through the battle and we can reverse another decision."

About 50 Gateway football players sat in the first two rows of the auditorium, holding a sign that read: "Save Our Coach." All spoke, and most expressed gratitude that Smith would remain as head coach for the upcoming season, but urged the school board to make the athletic director position full time.

"Whenever we need something, we go down to his office and talk to him," senior football player Darin Franklin said. "Even when we're in trouble, he's like our dad. He just teaches us life lessons all the time."

Other Gateway students cited Smith's impact on student-athletes beyond the football team.

"I'm not a football player, I'm a basketball player, but he does just as much for me as he does for football players," Gateway student Chelsea Richardson said.

Several former Gateway players and alumni also spoke in favor of allowing Smith to stay on as full-time athletic director and football coach.

Eric Warning, who graduated from Gateway in 2008 and played football under Smith, said the coach was instrumental in helping him receive a football scholarship to Duquesne.

"It's not about football," Warning said. "It's about the opportunities that this man is able to give to his players and his students."

Multiple speakers also called for school board members' resignations.

Lorraine Lewis-Burke, president of the East Allegheny chapter of the NAACP said race played a role in the board's decision. She promised her group would pursue legal action against the Gateway school district.

William Bailey, the board's lone African-American, cast the dissenting vote. Board member Dr. Oliver J. Drumheller, though, said the vote was based purely on financial concerns.

"[Race] is a very volatile subject," Drumheller said. "I can guarantee you that there was none of that involved in this. This is purely a fact of getting the athletic department where it needs to be when we go forward."

Smith stood in the back of the auditorium and listened to the speakers. "It's tremendous," he said of the support. "I'm very grateful. My family is very appreciative, just to see the people keep filing in."

Since taking over as head coach in 2002, Smith, who graduated from Gateway in 1987, compiled a 92-28 record and led the Gators to six section championships and four WPIAL Class AAAA title games.

"I'm a black and gold guy," he said.


Sam Werner: and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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