Former Bishop Carroll High School football coach Craig Sponsky won't be joining Altoona's staff.
In fact, he won't be on any sidelines locally this fall, and probably not for the foreseeable future, either.
Sponsky, whose successful 13-year run guiding the Huskies ended acrimoniously following the 2011 season, has taken a job as the athletic director at Oxbridge Academy, a two-year-old independent private school located in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"This was an opportunity I felt and my family felt would only happen once in my lifetime,'' Sponsky, who just turned 42, said. "It's so unique to get into the foundation of a new school with resources and a vision that's going to grow. I felt as influential as I could have been in my previous positions. I feel I can be influential with the development and building a foundation for many, many years to come.''
A 1988 graduate of Bishop Carroll, Sponsky got a degree in physical education and sports management with a business minor from Towson State. He became certified as an athletic administrator in the spring, although he served as AD at his high school alma mater, where he also taught, for the last several years.
Founded by businessman Bill Koch, the America's Cup winning yachtsman who is married to the granddaughter of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Oxbridge has a college preparatory curriculum and caps its classes at 125 students. The school will offer football on a club level this season with the goal to field an interscholastic team in 2013. Sponsky is a candidate to coach but said a number of other qualified candidates have expressed interest.
Oxbridge president and CEO Bob Parsons, who lived in Erie growing up and graduated from Penn State, said Sponsky was chosen from a pool of more than 100 applicants - about 25 of whom were interviewed - through a national search. Sponsky was among eight interviewees who were flown in to meet with the coaches and school staff.
"Craig was the unanimous first pick by everyone he met in the process in terms of reflecting the right values, having the right personality, the right sense of teamwork. Teamwork is very important to us,'' Parsons said. "What we found in Craig was a unique collection of the skills we were looking for. He brought the same beliefs and the kinds of things that we're focused on, which is being student-centered, making sure that academics is first but that there's an important role for sports in terms of giving kids the opportunity to learn the value of teamwork.''
Sponsky also will teach some physical education classes while developing the school's PE curriculum.
Sponsky has relocated with his wife of four years, the former Krista Myers of Bedford, and their two children, Chessa, 3, and Cole Michael, 16 months.
"It's a change, but it's a good change,'' Sponsky said. "After 41 wonderful years in western and west-central Pennsylvania, I felt great relationships with many, many people, and it's certainly hard to change. But the opportunity was so good that, if I didn't pursue it, it probably would have been something I regretted the rest of my life. Any of the negatives of leaving those friendships and comfort from so many years were outweighed by the promise and the opportunity. The warm weather doesn't hurt, either.''
Among those Sponsky is leaving behind in Pennsylvania are his parents. His father, Chuck, had a long association with Bishop Carroll as a coach and athletic director, too.
"I don't know if they're concerned about me. They're concerned about the grandkids being far away. My mother was funny. She said, 'Either I'm coming or the kids are staying,''' Sponsky said. "They're both retired. I think they are strongly considering moving with their grandchildren versus moving with their son.''
Sponsky had been linked as a possible assistant coach on returning coach John Franco's staff at Altoona High when things went sour for him at Carroll. At the end of a 1-9 season, Sponsky was placed on suspension for a week on a non-athletic matter and went on an extended medical leave from which he did not return to the Ebensburg Catholic school. Several football players - some of whom themselves had been suspended for the Huskies' final game - subsequently transferred to other schools.
Sponsky's teams posted a 105-52 record over 13 seasons, winning six District 6 titles, reaching the PIAA Class A championship game in 2003 and making it to the state semifinals three times, the most recent in 2010.
Sponsky declined to comment on any specifics of the situation with Bishop Carroll.
"I just want to focus on the current and the positives of the future. What transpired at Bishop Carroll was unfortunate, and I'm disappointed that the student-athletes at Bishop Carroll had to endure this,'' Sponsky said.