With high school football programs around the country putting the finishing touches on their summer workouts prior to the opening week of the season, the last thing any coach wants is a major distraction that could derail their team's state championship chances.
But what about when the major distraction is actually the head coach? For Vance (N.C.) High's football team, the 2011 season was supposed to be special. Following its first berth in the state semifinals last season, the team returned most of its top players and seemed destined to make a run at this year's state championship.
And with highly respected head coach Phil Culicerto -- a former quarterback at Virginia Tech -- in place, the team seemed to have all the pieces. Or so it thought. Just weeks before the season was supposed to start, Culicerto decided to step down due to "personal reasons."
As the Charlotte Observer noted, it was a shocking move that left people wondering what was going on behind the scenes. Days later, Culicerto came clean about the decision to step down -- one that had nothing to do with personal issues, and everything to do with a silly mistake, after the coach announced he had forgotten to earn enough continuing education units to maintain his North Carolina teaching certificate.
"I know the teaching requirements that are there," he told the Charlotte Observer, "and I had gotten to a situation where I probably spent the majority of my time with my people instead of taking care of myself and my credits. Sometimes, you think, 'I can get it, I can get it, I can get it.' I ran out of time."
Because of the mistake, Culicerto was forced to step down, leaving his team, and the school, in an extremely difficult spot. With the season opener on Friday, Vance officials will now have to decide if an assistant coach will take over, or if they'll go out and look for a new head coach and risk ruining the chemistry on the team.
As Langston Wertz Jr. wrote in his column for the Charlotte Observer, there's still hope Culicerto could be invited back to help the team as a "volunteer assistant," but for the moment it looks like the former coach will have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out.
Everyone knows the importance of maintaining your teaching certificate if you want to stay in the academic world. It's a shame Culicerto didn't stay on top of his credits. Now his team is suffering the consequences of his poor decision.