MOUNT VERNON — After four seasons as head football coach at Mount Vernon High School, Gary Keller says he will not return in 2011.
The News has obtained a document signed by Keller stating he will not ask for a contract to coach the Yellow Jackets next fall.
“This really seems like the timing is right,” Keller told the News this morning. “With the family situation, I want to spend more time with them.”
Keller said he has no regrets in his four years as head football coach at Mount Vernon. He insists this was a decision he made with his family.
“I really enjoyed my time (as coach),” Keller said. “Working with the parents and the kids was great. I appreciate all they’ve done. And my coaches who worked with me, I’m grateful to them as well.”
Keller does plan to stay at Mount Vernon as a teacher. But, he says, the time has come to step down as coach.
There is no timetable set on a search for his replacement. Athletic coaches are signed on a year-by-year basis. Keller does not know if the school will seek his input.
“Since the document was submitted during winter break, administration has not yet discussed those matters,” Mount Vernon schools superintendent Steve Short said.
Since the season’s end, Keller refused to answer questions about his future stating the it was never the right time.
Keller comes off his best year at Mount Vernon, as he was named Division I Central District Coach of the Year, as well as All-Area Coach of the Year by the News. The Jackets finished 6-4 in 2010, 5-2 in the OCC. Following a 1-3 start, Mount Vernon rattled off five straight wins, including a barnburner over Big Walnut, 36-33. A 21-6 loss to New Albany in the final game ended any hopes of a division title.
Keller was hired in March 2007, after an external search. He replaced Scott Spitler, who left after having won just one game in the previous two seasons. Keller immediately enforced stronger discipline on his players, focusing on attitudes both on and off the field. Keller also preached his philosophy around a team-first concept.
“Number 1, the team is always first,” Keller told football players during their first meeting after he had been hired. “We have to build around that. What we do, and how we do it, is always going to be built around the team. ... I try to work with individuals because you’ve got to try and make the individual feel like he is being successful. I am a big proponent of discipline. I think it is important we have discipline in our squad and our kids need to do the kinds of things they need to do to be successful — weightlifting, strength training and running.”
The Yellow Jackets stalled at first, going 0-10 in Keller’s first season and losing their first three in 2008. Mount Vernon’s 22-20 win over Olentangy Orange on Sept. 12 of that year broke a 22-game losing streak.
The Jackets would go on to finish 1-9 in 2008, but began to show improvement when they finished 3-7 in 2009, including a one-point loss at Wooster and a heart-breaking defeat to eventual co-OCC champ New Albany, 15-10.
Before coming to Mount Vernon, Keller served as defensive coordinator at Mansfield Senior for three seasons. Prior to that, he had been head football coach at Ashland University from 1994 to 2003.