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Column

Tough call: Heinauer situation difficult

If this is the end of Scott Heinauer’s football coaching career at Mars, it is a tough way to go out.

When a guy has been head coach at a school for 30 years — in any sport — one would anticipate that tenure would end with retirement, celebration and a hearty thank you for loyalty and dedication demonstrated by that person.

In Heinauer’s case, tack on the fact he’s served as athletic director for years and has produced a remarkable run of consistent success on the field. That success resulted in more than 200 wins for the Planets and a remarkable run of 16 consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances.

The playoff streak ended with a 2-8 record in 2021.

Did that sudden drop-off trigger a movement to replace the coach? That’s possible, I suppose, but not likely.

The Mars athletic program prides itself on stability among its head coaching ranks. Besides Heinauer, Blair Gerlach (girls soccer), Chris Knauff (boys soccer), Rob Carmody (boys basketball), Dana Petruska (girls basketball) and Michele Goodworth (softball) have led those respective programs for years. Andy Bednar retired as head baseball coach after more than two decades on the job.

So moving Heinauer out after one bad year? Nah. Just doesn’t fit. Many of his assistants have been on his staff for years as well.

Approximately 15 football players showed up at Tuesday night’s school board meeting — some parents joining them — supporting the board’s decision to open up the head football coaching position. Some of Heinauer’s critics believe the coach has not given as much to the team as the team gives to the coach.

One parent was quoted as saying: “Unfortunately, the person at the lead recently has not done that.”

Recently?

So he’s done it before, but not now?

I can’t say whether that criticism is valid or invalid. I am not at Mars’ football practices, nor am I with the team in the weight room, during preseason conditioning, none of that. What kind of feedback or encouragement the players receive from Heinauer cannot be determined by me.

Thirty years is a long time to do anything. Could the man’s passion for football, for coaching, be waning? Anything’s possible.

But, honestly, I doubt it.

Scott Heinauer is all about the Blue and Gold. As athletic director, he attends every Planet sporting event he can get to. He often serves as site manager when WPIAL playoff games are held at Mars’ athletic facilities, whether the Planets are playing or not.

I know how proud the man is of the school’s athletic tradition in numerous sports, especially football.

This situation simply doesn’t add up for me.

The easy thing to do in this case is for Heinauer to simply retire, remain as athletic director and assist in finding the school’s next head football coach.

But he wouldn’t be going out on his terms.

And that would be a shame.

John Enrietto is sports editor of the Butler Eagle