For the first time in 26 years, one of the most successful high school football programs in our area has a new head coach.
Dozens of people packed a school board meeting Monday night in Dallas pleading, in vain, to keep long time coach Ted Jackson.
Instead, the school board named Bob Zaruta as the new head coach of the Dallas Mountaineers.
The crowd couldn’t even fit in the room for the school board meeting. Most of those there were in support of long time coach Jackson.
But now, his decades of coaching at Dallas are over.
“We have the opportunity to be something special and we need our coach to do it,” said one of a group of current Dallas players who spoke to the board.
Senior members of the football team gathered in front of the board asking them to keep Jackson.
“Who is this about, is it about the kids? We are the kids it’s affecting.” said one of those players.
Ted Jackson has coached at Dallas since 1985. He has had a lot of success with the Moutaineers, but controversy too.
Two years ago the PIAA suspended Jackson for four games for allowing his players to urinate on Tunkhannock High School’s tennis courts.
More recently, a sideline incident with one of his players has also been called into question.
District administrators decided this year to list his position and accept applications. He applied for the job.
“They are really great guys and if you give us one more chance, I guarantee we won’t let you guys down,” said assistant coach Jonathan Saylor.
One by one fellow coaches, former players and others stood up to ask the board to keep their coach.
“I feel there’s going to be a lot of hurt in this community and it’s going to be shown if Ted Jackson is taken away from Dallas football,” said assistant coach’s wife Christie Van Orden.
But the board didn’t listen to those who spoke. With a 7 to 2 vote, they chose a former Dallas freshman football coach, Bob Zaruta to take the job.
“I know the traditions, I know the student athletes at Dallas and they’re very special,” said Zaruta. “It’s an exciting time. I’m looking forward to the challenges, there certainly will be on and off the field but I am confident things will work out just fine.”
The new coach said he knows part of his job will be to unify the team and the fan base after what has clearly been an emotional time here.
“There’s no question there’s a lot of emotion,” added Zaruta. “Football is that kind of support. I think I have that charge but I am excited about the opportunities.”