April 19, 2014


Softball coach Merle Simmons won’t be returning to Black River

SULLIVAN TWP. — Winning isn’t everything after all.

Merle Simmons led Black River’s softball team to uncharted waters. The Pirates were one out away from the Division III state semifinals last spring and were district runner-up in 2011, when Simmons was named Gazette Spring Coach of the Year.

Merle Simmons

That wasn’t enough for the school to keep him at the helm, and Simmons was informed of such Wednesday despite compiling a Medina County-best 41-14 record in two seasons.

“We appreciate what Merle has done for us, but we have decided to go in a different direction,” Superintendent Janice Wycoff said.

Black River administrators were vague when it came to explaining why Simmons, who is boisterous yet popular with his players, was not retained. Athletic director Bruce Lorincz acknowledged division among parents was a factor, but he said that was only part of the equation and refused to elaborate.

School board president Bruce Goff said the process for employing coaches involves a one-year supplemental contract being recommended by the athletic director to the superintendent, who then must further recommend it to the school board.

Lorincz declined to say whether he made that recommendation, and no one else would say, either.

Goff said a recommendation for Simmons never reached the board level. The board has the power to take another look at possibly hiring Simmons, but that bid was shot down 4 to 1.

“Evidently, there were some things (detractors) weren’t happy about, so the superintendant and treasurer (Jody Weidrick) came to the board and said they were not going to renew him,” said Goff, whose daughter Taylor was an All-Gazette catcher for the Pirates last spring.

“There were some communication issues with parents and players and the administration,” Lorincz added. “Things were done and we didn’t know they were done. With Merle, either you love him or you hate him. There’s no one in the middle.”

Simmons declined to comment on the situation. He stressed a belief the program was heading in the right direction under his guidance and added, “if any other school wants to win, give me a call because I’m about winning.”

Simmons’ replacement is expected to be named at next week’s school board meeting.

“He got a raw deal, period,” former board member Mike Gannon said. “The man did a good job. I don’t like his bedside manners because he’s brash, but we basically almost went to the Final Four with four to five girls … He did it the right way.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

  • Truth Hurts

    He brought this on himself. Yes he had a winning record, but someone needs to ask him how he treated other coaches and players at the middle school level during fall sports and how he behaved during games. The AD, Superintendent and the board all made the right choice in not having someone like this representing BR!!!!!!!!!!!

  • We will miss coach Simmons!

    First and foremost- He is a parent. As parents don’t we all do things maybe wish we didn’t to defend our children. The history of the issue at the middle school was not portrayed fairly. I think a lot of parents were concerned because they thought their daughters were softball stars and wanted them on varsity. Just another example of BR parents trying to control their daughters softball career. You may be able to control BR youth softball and now the high school! But I doubt any colleges will be waiting in line for your daughter!

  • getem

    It’s obvious that sports are very important to many. I feel though that many take it way too seriously, to the point that it shadows education itself and more important decisions in life. I don’t know Merle as a coach, I really don’t care. The sad part is, at least from what I see at BR, is that the politics and special treatment of some over sports situations, taints much of what goes on in our school district. Having Board members who’s own children are involved in some of these “teams” making decisions that are based on the whole primal sports thing is just part of the problem. I know who is interested in the position now, they will be shocked if they don’t get it. But sometimes because you think you have things worked out to your advantage, or you think of yourself much higher than others actually do, well, maybe you’re not as special as you think.