Dave Bentz said on Wednesday he was told that he will not be rehired as Annville-Cleona softball coach.
Three weeks ago, friends and supporters of Dave Bentz attended and/or spoke up at the Annville-Cleona school board meeting in hopes of saving his job as softball coach.
Those who spoke at the meeting - eight in all, including Bentz himself - did so eloquently, passionately and respectfully. Their efforts weren't wasted, in that they succeeded in showing the board and school administration how beloved and respected Bentz has been to the team and the community during a 17-year association with the A-C softball program - the last 11 as head coach.
It looks like it was all for naught, though. At least in terms of getting Bentz the job back he essentially lost in late May following an incident in which he loaned his keys to the high school to one of his players, who then gave them to another student to aid in playing a prank inside Annville-Cleona High School.
That news comes from Bentz himself, who relayed on Wednesday some of the particulars of a conversation he had last week with district superintendent Cheryl Potteiger while inquiring about his job status.
"She called me back (last) Monday and basically asked me, 'What did I need?'" Bentz said. "I just basically said, 'Well, what's happening with my situation?' She said, 'Nothing. There will be no (school board) vote. Your evaluation was deemed unsatisfactory.'"
That means Bentz will not be recommended for rehire and the position will be opened up for new candidates to apply. The 377 signatures on a petition that were presented in support of Bentz notwithstanding, and the fact that the prank in question resulted in no serious damage notwithstanding.
That's it, it appears.
"I called (athletic director) Tommy Long, who's been as nice as he can be through all this," Bentz said. "He said his hands are tied over all this because his superiors told him not to recommend me. So that's where we are."
Potteiger declined to comment for this story, again citing the fact that she is not able to comment on a personnel matter
Needless to say, it's been a trying time for Bentz and those who support him. He has consistently taken full responsibility for the keys incident and has been frank in his willingness to accept some sort of punishment for his lapse in judgement. But he has steadfastly refused to resign from his post, something then acting superintendent Jeffrey Miller asked that he do following the incident. Simply put, he wants to coach and he wants to coach at Annville-Cleona.
"My first instinct, of course, is I would love to coach," Bentz said of where he goes from here. "There might be a lot of people who would say, 'Don't go back there. They don't want you.' But it's my team, those are my kids, and that's my school. I graduated from that school (in 1976)."
Bentz, who is facing double knee replacement surgery in September, admits he'd consider coaching at another school, but also knows that's not where his heart is.
"It would be very hard to go to a new school and start over," he said. "Maybe I just wait a year and see what happens. It's a little crazy. And would another administration want me after what happened? Maybe nobody wants me."
Bentz's track record speaks for itself. He's won close to 160 games as only the second softball coach in A-C history - along with Jane Ebling - including a district title in 2006 and has consistently had the program in contention for Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four titles and L-L and District Three AA playoff berths throughout his tenure.
"My evaluation was deemed unsatisfactory because of one incident with keys," Bentz said. "It didn't have anything to do with coaching. It wasn't about that."
But if there's been a silver lining through all of this, it has been that Bentz has learned how many lives he's touched through coaching. He's still a bit overwhelmed by it.
"People say, 'Well, if you don't coach you'll take that with you, that you made a difference for a lot of kids,'" Bentz said. "But I guess that didn't have any bearing on the board and the superintendent. Why could they not overlook something and say, 'We'll reprimand you and put you on probation for a year?'"
It's a question that figures to linger among Bentz and his supporters, and one that may never be answered to their satisfaction.
And Bentz admits the sting may never go away. But he's awfully proud and happy of what came before this unfortunate, unsatisfying ending.
"I want to thank the administration for letting me coach for 17 years," he said.