Bed­ford named AD

NHS base­ball coach adds to re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BUZBY [email protected]­

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.”


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