For Tom Coyle, it was the hardest of decisions: stay at a place he’s loved since 2000, or leave for another job that would allow him to spend more time with his children.
On Thursday, Coyle chose the latter, departing as the head football coach at Father Judge, his alma mater (Class of 1987).
He accepted the same position at Penn Charter, an academic and athletics powerhouse in the city’s East Falls section. Not only did the move allow Coyle to come full circle to where his high school coaching career started (he was Penn Charter’s defensive coordinator from 1987-2000), but it will also give him more time with his son and daughter, who are second and fourth graders at Penn Charter.
“When you coach, the downside is that your time is very limited and you don’t get a chance to see your own children,” Coyle said. “Most of that has fallen on my wife to this point. Now, I get to drive them in every day and catch some of the things I’ve been missing. The way I look at it, I’m leaving one great place with great people for another. I consider myself fortunate to be entering my 27th season as a coach in two great places. I’m very blessed.”
Because of his history at Penn Charter, which participates in the six-team Inter-Academic League, Coyle’s name has been connected to the job before; predecessor Jeff Humble stepped down from the position in early December, and Coyle was PC’s guy. But leaving Judge for the school responsible for producing Atlanta Falcons superstar Matt Ryan was anything but easy.
“The most difficult part was saying goodbye to the kids, as well as the assistants that have sacrificed so much of their time over the years,” he said. “I’ll be their biggest fan next year, and it presents a tremendous opportunity for someone else to come in there to continue winning football games.”
Coyle, who went 73-77 in his 13 seasons at Judge, made his final season as a Crusader a memorable one in taking the entire team to Ireland to open its 2012 season.
“I got to drive to work every day and come to the best school in the Catholic League,” Coyle said. “There were plenty of ups and plenty of downs, but we always took tremendous pride in the way these young men represented their school and their neighborhood. We’ve been through it all together, and I can walk out of there with my head held high.”
Judge athletic director Ed Evanitsky told the Northeast Times in an e-mail last week that the school would immediately begin looking for its next coach, but that there was no timetable for hiring Coyle’s successor.
Either way, Coyle thinks the Crusaders will be in good hands without him. He singled out the return of Marquis Seamon, Samir Bullock, Joe Nigro and Tom Bayer as catalysts for the program’s bright future.
Overall, Coyle sounded comfortable in his decision. He’s excited for the next chapter of his career, and also finds comfort in the 13 years of memories at Judge that will ensure he will always be a part of the school’s rich history.
“I’ve always wanted to use the experience to better kids’ lives,” he said. “I just want to make each place a little bit better. It’s been a neat experience at Judge, and I can’t wait to be a part of things at Penn Charter. The people at both places have just been wonderful.” ••