Carl Pelini resigned as Fitch coach to work with his bother, Bo Pelini.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- When Carl Pelini arrived at Austintown Fitch High three years ago, he was given the task of turning around the football program.
"The numbers were down in the weight room, the numbers on the field were down," Pelini said. "There was a lot of doubt the kids had in themselves."
So Pelini and his staff worked to improve the attitude and confidence and make players realize they could be as good as anybody in the area.
"We finally figured it out this year," Pelini said.
Satisfied that he improved the program, Pelini found it easier to move on, but saying good-bye is never easy.
"I could have spent the rest of my career here," said Pelini, whose resignation was to be considered today by the Austintown Board of Education. "It's funny how things happen."
Pelini, 37, accepted a graduate assistant position with the University of Nebraska program and will work with the defense. Pelini's brother, Bo, was named the Cornhuskers' defensive coordinator last December after working as an assistant with the Green Bay Packers for three seasons.
"We thought Bo would be at Green Bay for a long time, but this opportunity presented itself," Pelini said. "It's like a domino effect. Suddenly an opportunity presents itself and everybody is affected."
By the numbers
Pelini, a 1983 Cardinal Mooney graduate, compiled a 12-18 record in three seasons at Fitch. He had consecutive 3-7 seasons before a 6-4 mark in 2002, the Falcons' first winning record since a 7-3 finish in 1994.
"I have mixed emotions because I had a great experience here, and we worked hard to turn this around," said Pelini, an English teacher who will finish the school year.
"You would think it would be an easy decision, but it isn't," he said. "It's the toughest decision I've had to make."
Fitch was in playoff contention last season before a 10-0 loss to Warren Harding in the final week erased its chances.
The highlight, Pelini noted, was a 24-0 victory over Boardman in Week 9.
"That's a game where we finally put it all together. We arrived, you might say," Pelini said.
"Even more is the overall change of attitude," he added. "You look around the weight room and it's packed with football players. They are there every day, and they're excited about the upcoming season."
This won't be Pelini's first Division I college coaching experience. He spent three seasons as an assistant at Kansas State from 1989-91.
The Cornhuskers finished 3-5 in the Big 12 last season and 7-7 overall.
"It was a challenge that I wanted to take on," said Pelini, who will assist all the defensive coaches. "You see how far you can go and challenge yourself. That's what life is all about."
Pelini and his wife, Kelley, will move to Lincoln, Neb., with their three children, Nicole (age 8), Danielle (7) and Dominic (3).
Lincoln is an hour north of where Kelley Pelini was raised.
As for the Fitch program, which will begin play in the Federal League next season, Pelini is confident it will continue in the right direction.
"There is a solid foundation here," he said. "There is great support among the administration, and there's a great coaching staff here.
"I think the program will continue growing, like it has been."