University City

Football coach's delay forces him to resign

Accountability and responsibility are words that get thrown around in sports, but the burden usually falls on the athlete.

Last week, those words affected Vance High head football coach Phil Culicerto, putting his team and the school in a bad situation.

Culicerto did not fulfill the requirements to get his teaching certificate renewed, forcing him to resign from coaching and teaching. He said he knew it was coming up but kept putting it off.

Now his mistake hurts the Cougars, the sixth-ranked team in the Observer's Sweet 16.

Culicerto said he was remorseful and upset that he let himself and the school down - and, most importantly, the players, with whom he had formed a special bond. The same players he made accountable are the ones suffering for his lack of it.

Student athletes have to be accountable for many things: They have to behave in school, get good grades, be good teammates, good people and ambassadors for their schools before they can step on the field.

Culicerto may get a chance to work as a volunteer assistant; players often don't get a second chance.

Vance is coming off one of its best seasons in school history. The Cougars have a talented and experienced team. Running back Larenz Bryant is one of the area's best talents, and quarterback Jalen Latter has a chance to be.

With 12 starters returning from last year, all they are missing is an experienced head coach.

Culicerto guided the Cougars to an 11-4 record last year and put them on the map. Their upset of rival Mallard Creek in last year's playoffs had Vance's confidence on a new level. They were looking to keep it going with Culicerto.

Now, just eight days before the season, Billy Leeson takes over. He is capable, and Vance is talented enough that the switch to another coach may not matter.

Teams react differently to adversity.

Some fold and can never recover, others use it as a rallying cry and band together.

Hopefully the Cougars come together. Hopefully Vance can continue its run.

Andrew Stark is a freelance writer for University City News.