Felus’ future with Altoona up in the air

The subject of opening the head football coaching position, currently held by Nick Felus, was listed on the Altoona Area School Board’s meeting agenda Monday night, but it was announced the topic had been removed nearly an hour into the meeting.

On the original agenda, the topic of head football coach was listed under “new business” and the recommended action was to “approve the Athletic Council’s recommendation to open the Head Football Coaching position and approve to advertise the position.”

Prior to the subject being addressed, Altoona Area School District Superintendent Dr. Charles Prijatelj announced the topic of head football coach would not be discussed and should be removed from the agenda. Prijatelj cited that the board needed to gather more information.

The floor was then opened to hearing from citizens.

Stephen Pyo of Altoona addressed the public and said he was there to speak about the topic that had just been removed. The board told Pyo he was welcomed to speak, and he announced he was a close friend of Felus. Pyo eventually distributed a list of positives Felus has accomplished during his three seasons coaching to the board.

“I’m here in support of Coach Felus,” Pyo said. “The previous two coaches had two or three years, and you can’t change the program in two and a half years. Please give him support and several more years, because the Altoona program is on the right track. He needs support from the administrators, and he needs support from the athletic director.”

According to Pyo, Felus, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, told Pyo he handed out the information Pyo distributed to the school board to whomever he met with prior to Monday’s meeting and the planned recommended action from the Athletic Council.

“He got here in 2016, and we had 60 players,” said Pyo, who has a son on the ninth-grade football team. “Now we have 81 players. Twenty players is a lot of football players. Single-A schools, some have 15 or 20 players total. There were 38 sophomores on this year’s team, and that’s a huge number. Our freshmen just went 9-0, and these are good, young players who have been in Coach Felus and these other coaches’ system.”

Following Pyo’s statement, some board members spoke.

Ron Johnston said he attended Altoona’s loss to State College and that the roster numbers look good and that it was clear that even when the Lions fell behind, they did not give up. Johnston also mentioned Coatesville, the program Felus was at previously, had been experiencing a lot of success on the field.

Another member wanted to make it clear that Pyo’s concern that Felus, who led Altoona to a 3-7 record this season and is 7-23 in his three seasons with the Mountain Lions, could lose his job due to wins and losses was unfounded.

“It’s not about wins and losses,” Altoona Area School Board member Rick Hoover said. “For any of us on this board, it’s not about wins and losses for us. I would never vote to fire a coach based on the fact they lost games. Never. It’s about something more than that, for all of us. Everybody wants to win, but a high school football coach’s job isn’t to win and lose. That high school football coach is supposed to help build a future with their young men. That’s what my concern is.”

Some of Felus’ high school assistants attended Monday’s meeting as did athletic director Phil Riccio, who is a member of the Athletic Council.

Riccio was asked after the meeting why the council’s recommendation was originally on the agenda.

“It’s a personnel issue,” Riccio said. “I can’t comment on personnel.”

When asked about the subject following the meeting, the Mirror was told by board secretary Camilla Houy it’s possible that Felus’ position could be examined at a future meeting but that it’s also possible it will never be on another agenda.