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Sidelines: Delffs resigns as Woodward coach after 5 seasons of rebuilding




When Henry Delffs resigned last month as Woodward s head football coach after five seasons, he said he did so with mixed feelings.

Delffs, 60, said that he will greatly miss the opportunity to have spent one last season with the 37 current juniors and sophomores who are expected back for a promising season next year.

But the outgoing coach, who will be succeeded by former Polar Bear assistant Nate Spitulski, made no bones about the reason he chose to step down before the 2006 season.

This might sound like ashes of discontent, Delffs said, but I just couldn t work with this athletic director [Woodward s Connie Stanford] anymore. It was just like the straw that broke the camel s back. I m tired of being lied to, and lied about, by her.

I talked to the principal [Ron Spitulski, Nate s father] about it. He just accepted my resignation. I think I did the right thing, but I know I m going to miss the kids. I love those kids.

When Delffs took the head coaching post prior to the 2001 season, he inherited a squad of 19 players in the upper three grades. He and his staff worked to build that number to 70 players last season. On the field, the success was limited in terms of wins and losses, but quite significant considering Woodward s recent history of struggle in maintaining a competitive level.

The Polar Bears went 16-33 overall (11-22 in City League play) under Delffs. Woodward was 11-57 overall (7-35 CL) in the seven seasons prior to 2001. The 6-4 (4-3 CL) record in 2003 was the school s first winning season in more than a decade.

But Delffs said he had issue with several actions Stanford took regarding the football program during his coaching tenure. Some were small problems, and a few were more troublesome to the coach.

I have not lied to Henry about anything, said Stanford, who is in her 22nd year as Woodward s AD. I don t know what else to say about it. That s that. I don t want to get into a he-said-she-said thing with Henry in print.

The biggest issue, according to Delffs, was that he was not consulted by Stanford before she decided to accept a request from Margaretta to break a contract and not play Woodward in the 2006 season opener.

Compounding that problem, Delffs said, was that he was also not consulted when the Woodward AD agreed to a contract to play Division II state powerhouse Avon Lake in Margaretta s place. Avon Lake won the state championship in 2003, was state runner-up in 2004, and lost to eventual champion Central Catholic in the 2005 regional final.

As far as Margaretta is concerned, Stanford said, they had made other arrangements, and that was their doing. It doesn t pay to fight someone who doesn t want to play you. You just move on.

The Avon Lake game [suggestion] came from one of Henry s assistant coaches, Ron Rice. I just assumed that Henry knew about it when we did it. I guess I shouldn t have assumed.

Avon Lake has not lost a regular-season game in more than three years, and Delffs said this game would be a poor matchup for the still-building Bears program.

She let [Margaretta] out of our home game, and we had a signed contract, Delffs said. We lost to them by one point [35-34] last year over there, and I thought we had the right to try to avenge that loss over here. Then she signed a contract with a team that we have no business being on the field with. She never told me about that either. I had to hear it through the grapevine.

Delffs had other lesser issues regarding his working relationship with Stanford, and said it was the combination of these things that led him to step down. He remains as a teacher at Woodward, his alma mater (1964 graduate), where he has worked for the last 11 years.

I think we accomplished a lot over the last five years, Delffs said, We went from 19 to 70 [varsity] kids, and we had 12 kids who either went to play in college or are still playing.

I feel that my staff and I made a positive impact on the field as well as in the lives of these young athletes.

Aside from responding to the scheduling issue, Stanford declined to address Delffs other noted complaints.

Henry worked hard and he did a good job, she said. I can t say anything negative about him. He monitored his athletes grades and he promoted scholarship along with athletics.

In defense of Stanford on the scheduling matter, Woodward assistant AD Bob Murray said that Delffs was asked, on more than one occasion, to make a list of acceptable schools to replace Margaretta.

Murray said Delffs never responded, and also that the coach s problems with Stanford stemmed from Delffs ownunwillingness to maintain a proper line of communication with the athletic office.

Steve Junga

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