Bedford named AD
NHS baseball coach adds to responsibilities
The saying goes that what goes around often comes around. In Jason Bedford’s case, the “come around” part came when he took over the athletic director position at Newark High School.
The “goes around” part happened last year, when then-football head coach Barry Zehnder tried to convince Bedford to apply for the athletic director position vacated by Dan Deppe. Bedford mulled it over but ultimately decided not to apply due to his other additional school responsibilities, including his role as baseball head coach. Zehnder ended up applying for and getting the job. In December, Zehnder resigned that job and his football coaching position to head to Middletown High School.
“Barry did a very good job of convincing me that it should at least be something that I should consider,” Bedford recalled. “I supported him in applying and assisting him whenever he needed it, and I was able to gain some insight into the job and felt that if it presented itself again, I would definitely apply.”
Bedford did apply and was appointed athletic director before the Christmas holiday.
“Having a seat at the ‘decision table’ and having my voice heard in front of the people making decisions is the most attractive [part of the position],” Bedford explained.
Bedford took the job with the understanding he could continue to coach baseball, a position he took over last season after serving two years as the team’s co-head coach alongside Joe DeGregory.
“Baseball is my passion and what I look forward to at the beginning of the school year,” Bedford said. “This position as athletic director is demanding and will interfere in ways, but baseball allows me to still compete, and ultimately that is where my passion is.”
Bedford’s first task is to hire a new football head coach, a process that often receives more public attention than other coaching hires.
“The football position is absolutely my first big task and it’s my number one priority as we speak,” Bedford said. “The position has closed, and there are quite a few resumes to get through and interviews to conduct, which I am excited for. We are currently in the initial stage of gathering a committee to assist in the hiring process. I do hope to have a decision from the committee within the next few weeks.”
While that process continues, so does the discussion over the lights at Hoffman Stadium. The old lights were removed last spring due to structural issues, and the district rented temporary lights to use for football games this past fall.
Bedford is expecting an update from district facilities personnel within the next few weeks and that will determine what, if any, steps Newark High will take.
“From what I have gathered so far, this is going to be more of a district initiative than just a school one,” he said. “But there is still pressure on myself and whoever the next football coach is to help sell it to the community and show how important those lights were to not only Newark High School football, but to the City of Newark residents as well as all of the school community, including both past and present students, and ultimately to the future high school students.”
Bedford is also tasked with guiding the athletic teams through the process of moving to Flight B in the Blue Hen Conference and into Division II for many sports.
“As an alum, I am sad to see that we have fallen into the Division II status for sports, but I do understand that with [school] choice and more options for students to consider for their high school, I can understand it and digest it a little easier than others,” Bedford explained. “I do think it can benefit our sports programs and maybe help add some confidence to our athletes, even if the status of Newark High School has changed to Division II.”
Once the dust settles on those issues, Bedford can then start thinking about other ways he can influence the athletic department. In some cases, it will be continuing traditions, while in others, he has the opportunity to put the ideas he has on paper into action.
“I am so full of ideas, I get on my own nerves trying to find a piece of paper to write them down so I don’t forget about them,” he joked. “But something that I want to continue to push is the tradition of Newark High School and preserving the history of it. I thought Barry did a fantastic job of keeping the community involved and showing just how impor tant tradition is to not only the current student-athletes, but also to the alumni.
One thing he looks forward to is finding ways to expose younger kids to the Newark High sports tradition.
“I remember playing youth football games at Newark High and it being a big deal to me and my friends. It was natural to come here,” he said. “But now there are more schools to choose from, and I just want Newark to be a part of that discussion with their families as a place to send their child.”
Bedford’s ideas also include hosting tournaments for travel teams for all sports, hoping that it will continue to develop Newark High as a place of community and provide an opportunity to put the school’s athletic history on display.
“The idea is that maybe kids will want to help us continue that tradition when it’s time to make a decision about high school,” Bedford said.
Bedford is starting with a full plate of issues to resolve and decisions to make, all while trying to return Newark High athletics back to the proud tradition it once boasted.
“Hopefully with our move into Division II with our sister schools [Christiana and Glasgow], we will be able to build this great school back to what it was when it comes to athletics,” he said. “If I do nothing else for Newark High School, I want to preserve the great history here and remind the community and the alumni of Newark High that it all still matters. This role is very exciting to me.”