The Altoona Area School Board recognized its PIAA gold-medal-winning sprint relay teams before Monday night's meeting.
The search for a new football coach, meanwhile, is turning into a marathon.
Despite running an extra half-hour in its pre-meeting executive session, the AASD board was unable to come up with a consensus on a candidate to replace Phil Riccio and did not bring up the issue for public discussion at the Kimmel Board Room.
"I'm disappointed,'' board member Jim Walstrom, part of the committee conducting the interviews, said. "Obviously, we're in a time crunch. This is a time-sensitive issue. We want to get a coach out there for our team. The guys on the team want a coach. The assistant coaches want a coach. We need to move forward on this.''
The hiring of a football coach was never on the agenda for Monday's meeting, but Walstrom was among several members of the school board who were optimistic the matter would be settled. The district sent an e-mail to the media alerting them to the possibility that a vote could be forthcoming.
"It's still a work in progress. We have a meeting scheduled for the 22nd. We're hoping to have a resolution for that meeting,'' board president Dave Ellis said.
Ellis said the board hadn't decided whether to bring back any candidates for a second interview. He didn't rule out the possibility of a special meeting before June 22.
According to Ellis, most of the 75-minute pre-meeting executive session was devoted to the football opening. Athletic committee members couldn't resolve their differences as to who should be recommended, Walstrom said.
After interviewing seven applicants on May 29, three candidates emerged to be the Mountain Lions' 20th head coach: Tyrone assistant Tom Palfey, Juniata Valley coach Mike Smith and Bishop Carroll coach Craig Sponsky. Palfey is a physical education teacher in the Altoona School District, an assistant coach with the Lions' track team and a former assistant with the Altoona football team.
Palfey is considered to be very popular with the students and has helped organize student sections at Altoona sporting events.
Both Sponsky and Smith have had considerable success at District 6 Class A programs. Sponsky is 91-32 in 10 years at Carroll, having guided the Huskies to five district titles and a state championship appearance in 2003. Smith, a former Penn State walk-on, is 35-17 with four playoff trips and a 2006 visit to the district finals in five years at Juniata Valley.
Ellis had expressed hope to hire a coach as quickly as possible at least in part to be fair to other schools if Altoona were to hire an out-of-district candidate.
"Anytime you do that, it's going to have an effect,'' Ellis said, "but we have to be sure we go the right direction here. We're going to do what we have to do.''
The position has attracted a lot of interest both within and outside of Altoona since Riccio stepped down to become the school's athletic director in late March; Riccio had a 71-45 record in 10 years with the Lions. The program is among the most successful in state history with 569 all-time wins.
"I think it's good, because I think the board is being very thorough,'' Altoona superintendent Dr. Dennis Murray said of putting off the vote. "I think they're being pressured by some local groups, and I don't think the board is being totally impacted by that. That's why the board is standing firm on trying to find the best candidate.''
The board could move ahead and hire a coach with a simple majority but is reluctant to do so. Walstrom said the members would like to have a solid consensus before bringing a name up for a vote.
"That's where we're going, because, as we plug a new coach into this system, if the coach would have a bad season and he comes in on a 5-4 vote, that could be an issue,'' Walstrom said. "We're trying to get a consensus of everyone involved that this is the person we want to guide this football team.
"Everyone has their opinion. I have my opinion who I think it should be. But that's the beauty of a panel. Everyone gets a vote. I can't be disappointed that everyone doesn't agree with me,'' Walstrom added. "I'm just disappointed that we couldn't get it done tonight.''