New Oxford football coach Jason Thurston resigns
Right when it seemed like the football coaching carousel in the YAIAA was done spinning, another coach announced his intention to step away. New Oxford football coach Jason Thurston has resigned, athletic director Ken Shafer confirmed Thursday.
While the resignation isn't official until the school board approves it Monday, Shafer said, Thurston made it clear in an email sent Wednesday to players and coaches that his decision was effective immediately.
"While I feel the timing couldn't be worse, and I had full intentions of finishing what I started, I am writing to you today to regretfully announce my resignation as head football coach," Thurston stated in the email.
His email indicated the school board and administration were uncomfortable with his original decision to resign after the 2015 season for fear he might be less committed and that his players might be less motivated to play for a coach who was leaving after the season. Thurston seemed upset that his level of dedication was being called into question.
"The fact that I have committed myself to our football program seven days a week in the fall and six days a week throughout the winter, spring and summer for the past three years, and continue to do so regardless of my future plans apparently carries no weight," Thurston said.
Thurston wrote that he was given two choices: to resign immediately or get fired.
"My gut tells me to make them fire me," Thurston said in his email. "But I do plan on coaching again some day, and I don't want to burn any bridges or cause a circus for the football program. That isn't what's best in my opinion."
When reached via phone, Conewago Valley School District vice president Edward Groft declined to comment on Thurston's claim that there was an ultimatum.
Calls to other school board members were not immediately returned.
New Oxford's Lineman Challenge event, which is run by Thurston, is scheduled for Saturday, and the football season opens in less than three months.
Shafer said he still hopes to hold the Lineman Challenge.
He added that he was surprised to hear the decision from Thurston, who closed his message to players by apologizing for having to cancel the event and thanking those who were involved in the program during his tenure.
"I am sorry that this is the way I am going out," Thurston said in the email. "This wasn't my plan."
Thurston had announced at the team's spring parent meeting that he would be stepping down as the head football coach following the 2015 season to devote more time to his family and teaching career, according to his email.
"I currently find myself devoting most of my time to football, and my family and teaching have suffered from it," Thurston said. "This was a tough decision, but one that I felt was the right thing to do."
Thurston led the Colonials to a 10-21 record in three seasons at the helm.
Players were shocked and upset when they learned of the decision, according to junior offensive tackle Brock Hartman, who has played all three seasons under Thurston.
"I was immediately overwhelmed like someone reached inside of me and pulled my heart out," said Hartman, who received the news Wednesday night. "From what I hear and see everyone is shocked and appalled by the decision."
With Thurston's resignation, five of the 10 Hanover-Adams area head coaches will enter the 2015 season with one year of experience or less at their current schools. New Oxford will need to hurry in its search for a new head coach. Preseason practice opens Aug. 17, and a last-minute change is a hindrance to the players, Hartman said.
"The last thing I wanted to do my senior year was to scramble to find a new coach," said Hartman, who added he wouldn't want to play for anyone other than Thurston. "Just when our team was coming together like nothing I have ever been a part of before, the school board rips it away from us. Their decision has greatly hindered us. ... It doesn't sit well with me and the other guys that their decision completely disregarded what any of the players wanted."