Xtra Points: Gateway coach's future in limbo Strife at Gateway

Legal battle looms over school board decisions

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A loss to Woodland Hills in the WPIAL playoffs last Friday might have been more than just the end to Gateway's season. It also could have been Terry Smith's last game as Gateway's coach.

Smith has been Gateway's coach since 2002 and has a 101-30 record in 11 seasons. He also has seven conference championships. But he has been in a battle with the Gateway school board for months over the future of his jobs as coach and Gateway's athletic director.

In the summer, the Gateway school board made Smith's athletic director job a part-time position and slashed his contract in half. Also, the board passed a resolution that, as of Dec. 31, a school administrator cannot also have a supplemental contract. That means Smith can't be athletic director and also the football coach.

"I don't really know right now what's going to happen," Smith said. "There are still some things happening here at Gateway and I have until Dec. 31 to make a decision, as the current policy states. Obviously, I have to explore any opportunity that presents itself, just because it appears that Gateway doesn't want me. Who wants to be anywhere they are not wanted?"

The Gateway district will have a new superintendent next month in Nina Zetty, who has been the superintendent at Peters Township for the past four years.

"Those nine [Gateway] school board members are the ones who control things," Smith said. "The one good thing is the hiring of the new superintendent. She starts the first week in December. You never know if she has a different direction for the district and athletic department."

Last month, Smith filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Gateway School District. NAACP officials have supported Smith and said race played a role in the district's decisions concerning Smith.

"We're nowhere near the [EEOC] complaint working itself out. That's a long process," Smith said. "I'm really up in the air right now. I don't really know what I'll be doing, but I know I'll be coaching somewhere next year."

Smith is a former Gateway and Penn State football player.

"I think I'm disappointed that my home district would treat me the way it has," Smith said. "When you dedicate your life to a place, it's just disappointing. But just like sports, you learn reality in this and you learn real life lessons. And you learn to trust no one."

Render vs. Novak

From a coaching standpoint, there has never been a WPIAL playoff game like tonight's Woodland Hills vs. Upper St. Clair Class AAAA semifinal.

Woodland Hills' George Novak and Upper St. Clair's Jim Render have 11 WPIAL championships between them. No WPIAL playoff game has ever included two coaches with so many titles. Novak has six championships, five at Woodland Hills and one at Steel Valley. Meanwhile, Render has five WPIAL titles since becoming the Panthers' coach in 1979.

Besides the championships, there are 631 wins between Render and Novak. Render is the all-time winningest coach in WPIAL history with a record of 364-117-6. Novak's record is 267-128-1.

TV games

Root Sports television will air the Upper St. Clair-Woodland Hills Class AAAA semifinal live tonight from Baldwin High School. Root will also carry all four WPIAL championship games a week from today at Heinz Field.

Comcast will show the Washington-South Fayette Class AA semifinal "On Demand" starting Monday.

The perfect semifinals

Six teams head into the semifinals with perfect records -- and half of them are in Class AA. Aliquippa, South Fayette and Washington are three Class AA teams with 11-0 records. The other undefeated teams -- all 11-0 -- are North Allegheny (AAAA), Thomas Jefferson (AAA) and Clairton (A).

Since the WPIAL went to four classifications in 1980, this is only the 11th time in 33 seasons that at least six teams have made the semifinals with undefeated records. But it's the seventh time in eight years that it happened. The high mark was last year when 11 semifinal teams were perfect. Before that, there was never a season with more than seven undefeated semifinalists.

Although it's a little unusual to have three undefeated teams in one classification in the semifinals, the 2004 Class AA semifinals actually had all four semifinalists with perfect records. They were Aliquippa, Burrell, Seton-LaSalle and Greensburg Central Catholic.

WPIAL shut out

This is pretty unusual: The WPIAL does not have one team playing Saturday in the PIAA girls volleyball championships.

Since the PIAA started fall volleyball championships in 1984, the WPIAL has had at least one team in the finals 24 of 28 seasons. The only other years that at least one WPIAL team didn't make it to a championship game were 1985, 1996, 2007 and 2009.

Three WPIAL teams -- North Allegheny, Mars and Greensburg Central Catholic -- all lost in the PIAA semifinals Tuesday.

Soccer all-star game

The Western Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association All-Star Games will be Nov. 24 at Moon High School.

This three-game event includes 90 of the top male senior soccer players in Western Pennsylvania. The Class A game starts at 10 a.m., Class AA at noon and Class AAA at 2 p.m. Players selected to the games will be announced at a later date.


For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975. Twitter @mwhiteburgh


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