Meddling Parents Drive Away Spalding Football Coach

SIDELINES

Armchair Quarterbacks Even Called His Home

November 22, 1991|By Pat O"Malley

Sometimes this coaching business, which can be fun and a real pain as well, has to take a back seat to one's personal life.

No one wasmore dedicated to coaching and determined to succeed than ArchbishopSpalding's Greg Fuhrman.

If time and effort guaranteed wins, then Fuhrman would have been undefeated. But unfortunately, his Cavaliers managed only two wins, and after two seasons, he has resigned as head football coach at Spalding.

It's not that the guy is giving up a hopeless situation, it'sjust that Fuhrman decided to get his priorities in order and not continue making sacrifices while a handful of parents interferred.

"To be honest with you, it was a trying situation for me, and I feel that I have to be a little more responsible in my personal life," said Fuhrman. "Kim (his wife) and I are expecting our first baby in April,and the one-hour commute to Spalding every day was getting to be a little much."

Fuhrman teaches at Old Mill Middle School North, but lives in Westminster in Carroll County, a long haul from Spalding in Severn.

Succeeding Gary Lyle as head football coach two years ago,Fuhrman became the Cavaliers' third head coach in their brief history. Joseph "Doc" Bartlinski started the program in 1985 with Lyle as an assistant. When Doc stepped down after the 1986 season, Lyle took the reins and kept them through the 1989 season.

Fuhrman stepped into a difficult situation with the program then struggling. He inherited a team that had gone 0-9 in 1989 and had not won a game since Oct.15, 1988 -- by 38-0 over Friends of Baltimore.

His first team didn't win a game, going 0-8-1, tying Douglass of Baltimore, 0-0, in thesecond game of the season. That tie snapped a 13-game losing streak,but the winless string continued into this season and reached 27 games until the Cavs upset Southwestern of Baltimore, 13-12, on Saturday, Oct. 19.

That was the highlight of Fuhrman's brief career at Spalding, but when the initial joy wore off, the perplexities of his jobremained, namely interferring parents.

Those problems persisted even after a second win on Nov. 2, by 7-6, over Archbishop Curley in East Baltimore.

"There were two or three parents who complained about things I did and how I coached," said Fuhrman. "It got to be quitedemanding on my life when the phone calls at home at night started to increase, and it even got to the point where some of them were giving Kim a hard time.

"Nobody gets rich from this, and it got to thepoint where it was no longer enough to keep going."

Fuhrman refused to name any of the second-guessers, but said they were a major factor in his final decision. He also hinted that he might be interestedin the Westminster High job.

There is also a good possibility that Fuhrman might end up back at Annapolis as an assistant to Roy Brown, which is the job he held before moving to Spalding.

Brown told me recently that "we might have a few surprises on our staff for next year."

In reading a prepared statement, Archbishop Spalding athletic director Domenic Pachence said, "I regret Greg's decision to resign. He came here with a great deal of enthusiasm and desire to build awinning program."

Pachence's statement only alluded to the parental pressure charged by Fuhrman as "the challenge of armchair quarterbacks" every coach must deal with.

In further discussion, Pachence admitted it may be a tendency of parents at parochial and private schools to get involved more than they have a right to simply because they pay tuition.

"I get the impression in talking to faculty at other private schools that parents who pay tuition feel they can be moreinvolved, and that's not just in athletics, but in other school organizations, too," Pachence said.

But, he said, "My dealings over 17years with the parents here at Spalding have been good."

Pachencewas truly disappointed to lose Fuhrman so soon, saying, "The ideal situation is to have a coach who stays 10 to 15 years.

"Maybe the success of baseball at Spalding is the fact that I coached for 12 years (before retiring to become full-time athletic director). You don't like having to replace coaches every two years, no."

Finding a replacement based on the team's last few dismal years and Fuhrman's pointing to interferring parents would seem to make the Spalding post less than attractive.

I asked Pachence if the school has considered dropping the football program.

"No chance of that," answered Pachence, who cited small numbers as a drawback to the fall sport.

"We've had limited numbers come out for football while soccer is very, very popular here at Spalding. Greg only had 30 kids to work with, and every one of those kids stayed with him the whole way through.

"It wasn't like kids quit, but he didn't have many to start with. I guessif there is a problem with football, that would be it, limited numbers. But even Greg made some strides in that respect with more kids onthe roster than we've had in the past."

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