Seneca Valley teachers strike hero: Ron Butschle

As a high school football coach in Western Pennsylvania, where football is almost a religion, Ron Butschle is used to attention.

Seneca Valley High School's head coach never imagined the attention he now is getting by choosing to stay with a football team that has a chance at making the playoffs for the first time in five years. His players are gratified by his decision to stick with them during the teachers' strike.

The 42-year-old coach says he is one of nine Seneca coaches of various sports who plan to cross the picket line during the teachers' walkout, which began Monday. More than anyone, though, he quickly has become the most-discussed person in the district.

"I am not doing this as a rebel or to make a stand. I have to look at those boys. They don't get to make up those games. The missed days in class will eventually be made up," he said.

The teachers union could fine anyone who crosses the picket line. Should that happen, Seneca football boosters have said they would pay Butschle's fine.

Even Butschle's coaching staff is divided by the strike. One assistant coach still is coaching, while a second coach is on the picket lines.

"It is a tough, difficult situation for me. I am hoping that people respect me," Butschle said.

If the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents Seneca Valley's 585 teachers, had its way, Butschle would be on the picket line.

"That's his decision. I have no comment on that," said union spokesman Butch Santicola.

Fining Butschle has not been discussed, said Santicola, adding that he is angered by such rumors.

"We have never done anything like that -- ever," he said.

Butschle teaches English and speech to 10th-graders.

The Raiders have two games left in the regular season -- one tonight against Shaler and one next week against Butler. The team will participate in divisional playoffs if it wins either game.

Butschle has earned the support of his 56 players, said Ian Whittaker, a senior and right guard on the varsity football team since his sophomore year.

"I would be very disappointed if football stopped," he said. "This is my senior year, and we have been working for this for years."

Whittaker credits the team's success -- it has won four games and lost three this season -- to its head coach.

"It all comes from him -- from every practice, from watching films. He makes the atmosphere for us. During games, he gets so excited that he looks like he's about to walk onto the field and play himself," Whittaker said.

Butschle, however, credits his players.

"I have asked for blood from these kids, and they have given it. I have asked them to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours all year long on football," he said.

The father of three children, whose ages range from 7 months to 19, Butschle first played football in the late 1970s at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Ill.

His high school coach there, Dave Mattio, and his father, Ron Butschle Sr., who flies in from Florida for every Seneca Valley game, are the two people whom the younger Butschle has relied on most for advice in recent weeks.

"We talked at length the other day, and I think it's his best interest to stick with the team," said Mattio, who is still the head football coach at Marian Catholic. "His team is on the verge of something that might be very positive."

Butschle enrolled at Duquesne University, where he pitched for the school's baseball team. He was the football coach in the Sto-Rox School District for 14 years before moving to Seneca Valley four years ago.

"He's very well respected here at Sto-Rox. He had a good record here and still has many friends in the district," said Athletic Director Mike Colligan. "The commitment he has shown to those Seneca kids is just great."

Butschle said he has received support from a number of striking teachers, but said he believes emotions from the strike will linger.

"There will be a lot of open wounds," he said." A lot people have very emotional opinions."


1 comment:

rat said...

Butch, you're a champ.

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