School districts changed football plan: Irion was to be co-coach, but declined

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Former Granville varsity football coach John Irion. Photo courtesy of NYVTmedia.

The Granville-Whitehall newly merged varsity football program has one coach, Darin Eggleston of Whitehall, but the school districts changed plans during the interview process and decided to have co-coaches after saying they’d have only one top coach.

Their choice as co-coach, however, Granville coach John Irion, turned down the job.

On March 21 the Granville and Whitehall Boards of Education selected Eggleston as the lone coach.

Former Granville varsity football coach and 2021 Capital Regional Football Hall of Fame inductee Irion said via email that after his second interview for the sole head coaching position, he was informed by the interviewing committee consisting of Granville superintendent Tom McGurl, Whitehall superintendent Pat Dee, Granville athletic director Justin Nassivera and Whitehall athletic director Keith Redmond, that the position would be a co-head coach position alongside Eggleston.

At Granville and Whitehall board meetings prior to the interview process and official merger, both superintendents declared the program would have one head coach.

“I interviewed for what was advertised as the head coach (position) for the merged program. Both Granville and Whitehall superintendents are on record as stating that this will not be a co-coaching position,” Irion said.

“After the second interview, where I feel I did well on both, they decided at the last minute that the position was now going to be a co-coaching one. No explanation was given to me.”

In a joint statement via email, Dee and McGurl replied to NYVTmedia’s questions about whether Irion had received an explanation to the change from one head coach to two co-coaches.

Whitehall superintendent Pat Dee. Photo courtesy of NYVTmedia.

“The position was originally posted as a head coach, but during the process, we reviewed the strengths of all candidates and determined that a co-coach would be in the best interest of our student-athletes,” Dee and McGurl said.

“The rationale for the adjustment was provided to all of the candidates after completing the interview process,” they said.

Irion said he was “perplexed” that he would not be considered as the sole leader of the merged program with 40 years of coaching experience, 35 of which were as a head coach.

“I feel, and told them, that a head coach is needed in the situation and that I would have been very successful in the transition of this merger,” Irion said. “A few days later, the boards appointed the Whitehall applicant as the head coach. I was also confused that an applicant who had no experience as a varsity football head coach was then approved to be the new head coach.”

Dee and McGurl would not comment on the verbiage or reaction of Irion from their interview but said the former Granville coach removed himself from the process after being informed the position would be a co-coaching slot.

The superintendents did not reveal who the third interviewee was for the head coaching position for the merged program.

“Both coach Irion and Eggleston were offered to be co-coaches,” Dee and McGurl said.

“Coach Irion did not accept that offer and removed himself from consideration. As such, Mr. Eggleston’s name was presented to the boards of education as head coach,” Dee and McGurl said.

“The goal is to have a well-rounded coaching staff,” they added. “The strengths of both parties (Irion and Eggleston) were factored into that decision.”

Dee and McGurl provided an update on the 2022-23 Granville-Whitehall program and what is upcoming with their staffing.

“We are currently in the process of interviewing and selecting assistant coaches. Coach Eggleston has met with the players and plans for pre-season work are in process. We look forward to a successful merger between our two districts,” Dee and McGurl said.

Granville superintendent Tom McGurl. Photo courtesy of NYVTmedia.

Irion said he has only met Eggleston in passing once but said he’s “sure he’s a great guy.”

When asked if he would apply for the position had it been originally announced as a co-coaching position, Irion said he was put on the spot too quickly by the interviewing committee and would not have applied in the first place unless he had a significant amount of time to research beforehand.

“I have had two or three people that I’ve coached with for a long time that I would co-coach with. Getting to know coach Eggleston to see if that was even possible was not an option,” Irion said.

“They (the interviewing committee) wanted my decision right away without meeting with him alone to see if it could work. I see red flags when decisions are expected to be made without at least studying the situation.”  

“Schools that have attempted co-coaches throughout the state have mostly gone to head coaches the following years or tried to drop the mergers (or gone to eight-man football),” Irion said. “The ones with a head coach have been the most successful.”

After handing the Queensbury program over to Matt Crossman in 2017, Irion, of Hartford, said it was a convenient challenge for him to take over the Granville coaching job.

“Queensbury was a longer travel, so trying to get to the after-school weights most days of the week all year was tough. Granville was not tough to get there. It was a new challenge being a small school and was very rewarding,” he said.

Going forward, Irion, who won the 2013 Section II Class A championship with Queensbury, provided insight to what his future looks like, whether he will walk on the sidelines of the gridiron again, and reminisced on his time in Granville.

“I had and have plans to continue coaching if the right opportunity presents itself,” he said. “It has been an honor to have coached both football and track at Granville these past four years. “My time at Granville has been both rewarding and fun. I will miss the players the most.”