Marengo board votes to keep football coach

MARENGO – Marengo football coach Matt Lynch will return for an eighth season after being rehired by the District 154 school board in its meeting Monday night.

The board heard almost 40 minutes of feedback, positive and negative, regarding Lynch in its public comment portion of the meeting. Later, after almost an hour of executive session, the board reconvened to announce that Lynch had been rehired.

Three assistant football coaches who were on the recommendation list – Brendan Dowling, Joseph Watzlawick and Bob Carlson – were taken off the list after executive session. Every other coach on the recommendation list for the 2014-15 school year was approved.

Marengo football players and their parents crowded into the high school’s Media Center for the meeting after hearing rumblings that Lynch, who is 11-52 in seven seasons, might not be brought back. About 55 people attended the meeting, with about 15 of those being current or former players. More players from the track team came later.

Many who attended waited through the executive session to learn if Lynch would be retained.

Lynch’s name was on the list of all the coaches – head and assistants for all levels of all sports – to be approved for next year. Board president Elizabeth Henning told those in attendance the board “never discussed not rehiring Lynch as football coach for next year.”

However, after hearing some concerns, the board tabled Item No. 4 under New Business, recommending the approval of personnel for 2014-15, so it could be discussed in executive session. That session started at about 8:30 and ended at 9:30.

At that point, the players sat in the first two rows with their arms around each other hoping for the news their coach would return.

Lynch was unable to be reached for comment late Monday after the board came out of executive session.

“All the seniors were at a [team] meeting and we heard all the rumors and how it was going to be brought up and we really like Lynch as a coach,” junior running back Koty Kissack said.

The players said Lynch did not ask them to attend the meeting on his behalf.

Sentiments often were the same with the players and parents, as they praised Lynch for his tutelage and guidance of young men. The open discussion portion of the meeting, when guests are allowed to comment, took about 40 minutes. All that discussion was about Lynch.

“Coach Lynch is amazing,” said Joni Walsweer, whose son Ethan will be a senior next year, during the public comments. “He looks at what they’re missing and what they need. He’s instrumental in helping a lot of kids.”

Junior Derek Caskey and both his parents also commended Lynch.

“I’ve seen some bright times and dark times,” Caskey said. “But everything was done for a purpose. As a man and a coach, he’s trying everything he can. And he’s building us mentally and physically for after football.”

Former assistant coaches Bill Hoeske and Chad Miller spoke in opposition of Lynch. They both were miffed that there were no coaching evaluation interviews following the season, and then found out five months later, not from Lynch, they would not be returning.

“I heard [I was no longer assistant coach] from players and coaches,” Miller said. “It’s a little disheartening to find out that way.”

Hoeske added that the way it was handled was “totally unprofessional.”

Also, Marengo Junior Tackle Football president Bryan Holst said he had asked Lynch to work with him in conducting a camp this summer, but Lynch was uncooperative.

“We wanted to integrate what he’s running,” Holst said. “He said, ‘If you don’t have more than 30 kids there, it’s a waste of my time.’ I talked to other tackle programs in other towns and they all work with their high school coaches. I counted four times in 10 minutes of a phone conversation where he said it was a ‘waste of time’ if we didn’t have more than 30 kids.”

Lynch’s supporters admitted there were aspects which could be improved.

“Matt needs to handle some things better,” said Tim Ryan, a volunteer coach with Lynch last season. “He should be given the opportunity to fix some things. Working with Matt, I believe in the leadership and the man.”

So does Lou Correa, a freshman at Illinois-Chicago, who is back home for the summer and attended the meeting.

“I heard Lynch was being questioned as a head coach, that shouldn’t be a question,” Correa said. “I’ve been part of three sports here – football, wrestling and baseball – he’s the best coach I’ve ever had.

"Two years ago, the Stillman Valley coach came on our bus after the game and said, ‘You guys played a heck of a game. You had us outschemed, you had us outplayed.’ But at the end of the day, we just didn’t have enough depth to keep up.”

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