TODD BLACKLEDGE AND THE HOOVER BASKETBALL PROGRAM
If the North Canton board of education approves the reccomendation of superintendent Michael Hartenstein at its monthly board meeting tonight, then Todd Blackledge will guide the Vikings program beginning tomorrow. That rumor has been floating around for weeks, although many people (including myself) are shocked to learn that it is actually going to happen.
Hartenstein is definitely making the call on this one, and there are arguments on both sides of a decision that is sure to spark controversy throught North Canton and Stark County as well as within the coaching community.
On one hand it’s easy to see why Hartenstein would tab Blackledge to replace Randy Montgomery, who was unceremoniously fired last month after 12 years at the helm. In three years as Penn State’s starting quarterback, Blackledge guided the Nittany Lions to a 31-5 record en route to the 1982 national championship. He also had seven successful years in the NFL with the Kansas City Cheifs and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he is now an excellent college football analyst for ESPN. He worked under Montgomery for eight seasons, and four of those came as the freshman head coach.
Blackledge was a multi sport athlete in high school, and Hartenstein appreciates that he is willing to encourage Hoover athletes to play as many sports as they wish. Blackledge has spotless integrity, and there’s no doubt that he is more than qualified to teach players how to do things the right way on and off the court. He is a devout Christian with a system of values that will be invaluable to the players that he is able to coach, and he’s one of the more repected members of the North Canton community and Stark County in general.
Nobody is going to question Blackledge’s qualifications, and they really shouldn’t. I respect him well enough to say that if I had a son, I’d want him to play for a man of Blackledge’s character. His level of commitment to the program, however, remains a fair question that must be posed.
Blackledge makes to much money calling cames for ESPN to give it up, and that’s why nobody expected him to take Hoover’s coaching job. The controversial part of this hire is that Hartenstein and Athletic Director Don Shimek are allowing Blackledge to coach around his ESPN duties, and that has raised many justifiable concerns.
Blackledge leaves for his weekend football assignments on Thursday and doesn’t return until late Saturday night or sometime Sunday. That leaves assistant coaches in charge of players for at least three days a week in November, which will include at least the early portion of the Vikings game schedule.
It’s one thing to schedule around the freshman coach being away, but a part time coach at the varsity level is indeed another story. Coaching is definitely a full time job, and it’s very hard to develop meaningful relationships with players from a considerable distance. Coaches often bond with players in a way that enhances their performance and provides a significant impact on their lives. That cant get done successfully on a part time basis, and the athletes in the Hoover basketball program are likely to be short changed as a result.