June 30, 2016


High school football: Vermilion’s Hartley quits before coaching 1 game

VERMILION — When Adam Hartley was hired as Vermilion’s latest football coach just two months ago, Superintendent Phil Pempin believed he had stopped the bleeding in the program.


Today, Pempin’s looking for a tourniquet.

Hartley, who had said his goal was to “coach at a place I could be for 20 to 25 years” when he was hired in February, abruptly resigned Tuesday, four months before what would have been his regular-season debut on the Sailors sideline.

Hartley, a former Sandusky Perkins, St. Mary Central Catholic and Oak Harbor assistant, was the Sailors’ third coach in three seasons. Now, the Sailors, who have gone 2-28 the last three years and were 1-9 with a season-closing eight straight losses a year ago, will be looking for coach No. 4 in three years.

“He’s decided that he wants to remain in his own school district,” Pempin said of Hartley, who teaches at Perkins. “He doesn’t want to risk a possible layoff here.”

Pempin said he made it clear during the interview process that Hartley, 33, would be expected to teach in the Vermilion school system, and though Pempin said nothing has changed in the district’s financial situation, Hartley came to him Friday expressing concerns about job security.

Pempin and Hartley met Monday to talk about those concerns, but Hartley turned in his official letter of resignation Tuesday.

“When he interviewed for this position, we did go over that,” Pempin said. “I told him I can’t guarantee anything, but I showed him our financial forecast. Now he says he cannot risk taking a position here.”

Pempin also said having Hartley teach at Perkins while serving as coach would not work because he wouldn’t be able to get to Vermilion soon enough after school let out.

Hartley did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

“I’m extremely disappointed that this happened,” Pempin said, “because it has our kids in a tough situation without a coach.”

When longtime coach Frank Horvath stepped down following the 2010 season, Vermilion handed the job to Ben Ohlemacher, who had played and coached under Larry Cook at Sandusky High and Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic. Ohlemacher also served as Vermilion’s athletic director.

But Olemacher resigned both jobs in January after being placed on administrative leave in November for a variety of issues.

That led to what Pempin called an extensive search for a replacement. Pempin believed Hartley, who beat out three other finalists, was the right person to get the Sailors’ football program back on its feet.

“Adam has a complete plan for our program,” Pempin said when Hartley was hired. “All of our finalists did, but in the end, we believe Adam was the best choice.”

Pempin might be turning to one of those other finalists as he looks to find yet another new coach quickly.

“At this point, we’re looking at our options,” Pempin said, “but nothing’s official. I’d like to do this as soon as possible. Our students are in the lurch right now, so the sooner we can do this the better.”

Though Vermilion has struggled the last three seasons, they were 6-4 overall and 6-1 in the West Shore Conference as recently as 2008 and went 6-4 and 5-2 the year before that. But you have to go all the way back to 1997 to find another winning season for the Sailors, who were 9-2 and made the playoffs that season.

“It’s disappointing,” Pempin said of having to search for a football coach so soon after hiring one. “Disappointing and frustrating.”

PAC possibilities

Pempin also verified that Vermilion, which will leave the WSC for the Northern Ohio League after next season, has interest in joining the Patriot Athletic Conference should the opportunity arise.

“The NOL knows we are in talks with the PAC,” Pempin said. “When we first joined the NOL we didn’t have the complete information we needed. … Had we known the PAC would have been a possibility in the near future, we wouldn’t have gotten involved in the NOL.”

Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.