The end of an incredibly long football era at one Indiana high school had double-significance for one family after its patriarch was dismissed as head coach and his son was denied the chance to succeed him … even after he served as head coach in his father's absence on Friday night.
The mysterious case of why Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers chose to dismiss head coach Matt Lindsay three games into the 2012 season remains unsolved. Officially, Lindsay was let go because of "violations of school and Diocesan policies, and his violations of his employment contract obligations." While that justification may very well be completely valid, it elicited some skepticism from the school's rabid fan base, which has seen Lindsay coach the Knights for 26 seasons and earn nine state titles in the process.
"It has been a special time and a great 33 years at Bishop Luers," Lindsay told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on Sunday. "I love the people and the kids, and I wish them all the best. I have no further comment."
Lindsay's departure officially brings to an end the coach's 33-year tenure at the school, yet it also ended a much shorter, albeit similarly promising, stay. When Lindsay first took "a leave of absence," on Thursday, his temporary departure was couched in terms of personal reasons. At the same time, his son, the school's promising offensive coordinator, Kyle Lindsay, was named as the head coach of that week's game.
The younger Lindsay did his father and the school proud, steering the Knights to a 27-7 victory against Wayne (Ind.) High.
"Every win is big, but considering the circumstances this one is special in some ways because it was my first game as a head coach," Lindsay told the Journal-Gazette. "I am proud of the kids, of how they responded. They just found out [Thursday], as well as myself, that my father wouldn't be here for … we don't know how long.
"They did a pretty good job of staying focused. We didn't have to give them a win-one-for-coach-Lindsay speech. We just tried to make it like every other Friday night."
That impressive performance could easily have been justification for keeping the younger Lindsay at the helm for the remainder of the season. There was no indication that he resigned following his father's departure, and the team clearly responded to a sense of continuity that came from his appointment.
That, evidently, wasn't compelling evidence for the school's principal, Mary Keefer. With the school operating without an athletic director, Keefer took the reins back from a second Lindsay in the span of a week on Monday, announcing that her husband, Steve Keefer, would coach the team for the remainder of the 2012 season. Mary Keefer also announced that no permanent athletic director would be appointed in the short term, leaving plenty of questions about why he and Bishop Luers would make two drastic moves so close together.
Steve Keefer is no stranger to football success, at Luers or elsewhere. The coach led the Knights to the 1985 Class 2A state title. In all, he led the program from 1979 to 1986 but had returned as an assistant coach in recent years.
It seems likely that Mary Keefer feared that keeping the son of a legend onboard would be tantamount to leaving him an active voice in team policy. That's probably a valid concern, but it's also unfair to Kyle Lindsay. The young coach was a committed Bishop Luers staff member and gave no indication that was about to stop, particularly given the pride he took from his first victory at the helm.
Now he'll have plenty more time to spend with his father when either of the pair desires, even though neither likely planned for that to come for another couple months, at the earliest.