TYRONE - Tyrone defensive back John Chronister said as a child he idolized current Altoona football coach John Franco.
He said he attended football camps to learn from Franco, who coached in Tyrone from 1994 to 2011. Despite that, he was the lone voice advocating for the Tyrone Area School Board to consider other candidates for the soon-to-be vacant coaching job at its work session Tuesday night.
Chronister, a sophomore, said Franco looked a group of students his year in the eye at a camp and said he would not leave Tyrone when his son graduated. Franco's decision to leave, Chronister said, "broke [his] heart."
"I know everyone will say he's the best," Chronister said. "But please look at other options. There may be a better candidate."
A group of about 25 current football players and team supporters attended the meeting to voice opinions on the upcoming coaching search.
Courtland Pannebaker said he has been promoting the position around town in hopes of seeing Franco return to Tyrone. Franco has not officially applied nor has he resigned from his job at Altoona.
Pannebaker played for Franco in his previous stint with the Golden Eagles and said the former coach means a lot to him. He said Franco's value as a coach comes from his personality, which promotes hard work and discipline among his players.
"He wants us to be perfect individuals," he said.
Pannebaker said his petition currently has "over 500 signatures and counting."
Jake Makdad, a junior tight end for the Golden Eagles, offered a more neutral request for the board, representing a number of other players in attendance.
He asked the board to keep the best interests of the students in mind during the selection process.
"There will be a team on the field in the fall regardless," Makdad said, "but a candidate without accolades and heart and such is not in the best interest of our team."
District superintendent Cathy Harlow said the position would be advertised on the district website and through the local newspaper.
Once the board officially accepts the resignation of current coach Steve Guthoff, which it is set to do at its regular session next week, the position will be advertised for two weeks, during which applications will be accepted. These will be reviewed before a recommendation is made to the board, likely at the March meeting, she said.
The coach will serve merely in that role and will not serve in another administrative or teaching positions, Harlow said. Pay will depend on whether the applicant is a member of the district's bargaining unit, she said, which has a set pay scale.