Jeff Jones, who helped guide the Westland High School football program to its first playoff appearance in history, stepped down recently, citing family and time commitment reasons. Contributor Frank DiRenna checks in today with the details surrounding Jones' decision.
Jeff Jones, who helped guide the Westland High School football program to its first playoff appearance in history, stepped down recently, citing family and time commitment reasons.
Pending board approval in the Delaware City School District, Jones will accept a science teaching position at Delaware Hayes High School and then resign as a science teacher at Westland.
A pair of tragedies in Jones' life played important roles in his decision to leave the South-Western City School District.
Jones' uncle, Mike Davies, died recently and then his father, Jay, suffered a heart attack earlier this month. The elder Jones was readmitted to the hospital on June 20.
“My mom's (Denise) older brother, who was my dad's best friend, passed away and then my father had a heart attack and then went back in the hospital, so it's been a pretty trying month-and-a-half that way,” Jones said.
Jones resides in Olentangy with his wife, Christy, and young children, Aly and Jordan.
“I don't have enough time in the day for my wife and kids,” Jones said. “When you're running a big football program like Westland or a Dublin Coffman or a Hilliard Davidson, you're managing 120 kids, a large coaching staff, recruiting and making sure kids are staying up with their grades.”
“Obviously, at Westland the head football coach has to be a fund-raiser as well as a leader in the booster groups. It was tough. After the health issues we've had in our family over the last month-and-a-half, it's really made me take stock of one my own health, but two, the fact that my wife and kids weren't getting nearly enough of my time to make things in my mind palpable.”
Under Jones, the Cougars were 1-9 in his first season in 2005 before posting a 7-4 record last fall, highlighted by the playoff appearance. Westland dropped a heartbreaking 28-21 decision to Upper Arlington in a Division I regional quarterfinal.
The Cougars (4-1) finished second in the OCC-Ohio Division behind Lancaster (5-0).
Westland won its first four OCC-Ohio games en route to a 7-2 record.
For his efforts, Jones was named coach of the year in the Central District and D-I co-coach of the year in Ohio. He shared that honor with Derek Kidwell of Fremont Ross and Matt Jordan of Painesville.
“This class (2007) was going to be successful whether Jeff Jones was there or not,” Jones said. “I was just fortunate to be their head coach and get to experience things with them.”
Graduated standout quarterback Kasey Wendal, who will continue his education and football career at Ashland University, led the Cougars and became close to Jones.
“It was rough,” Wendal said of Jones' decision. “When a coach that you have really bonded with and become a part of what he does on and off the field, it was rough because I know that nobody else in my school is going to be able to get the same opportunity that I did. At the same time, I'm glad I got the opportunity. It was a little bittersweet.”
The team graduated 25 seniors, but Jones anticipates a strong nucleus returning.
“I talked to the kids last Friday,” Jones said. “It's tough for them, especially with about 60 to 70 days to go before you play your first ball game. Of course there is going to be uncertainty in their minds. They're going to want to understand fully and hopefully they do understand that family certainly comes before football and not just in the dictionary.”
With the season quickly approaching, Athletic Director Greg Burke hopes to have the position filled by July 9.
The job was posted on June 21 and Burke began interviews shortly thereafter.
“I certainly did not want this,” Burke said. “This was not something that I was looking to have happen, but I understand. Family should come first.”
Jones is unsure when he will return to football.
“I really don't know,” Jones said. “I really believe that I do a good job of running a football program. I'm not going to sit here and a gloat, but at the same time I think I do a pretty good job. It would have to be the right situation because I have found the right priority which is I need to make sure that my family and home life is taken care of first.”
Jones served as assistant football coach at Dublin Scioto and Coffman high schools, and head coach at Mount Gilead before taking over the struggling Westland program.
“It was a hard decision,” Jones said. “You come off all of the things that we did this past year. Certainly it's tough to say I'm going to step back and reprioritize. At the same time, I certainly have a clear conscience. The demands of the job itself being a full-time teacher, teaching two different preparations in science and being a good classroom teacher, which I do enjoy being and is important to me. That's my main job.”