Eric Jantzi’s time as coach at his alma mater is over.
The veteran pilot, who guided North Tonawanda to the state Class AA title in 2009, has stepped down as leader of the Springville football program after just two seasons. Logistics is the reason for his decision, as being the head coach at a school where he doesn’t teach proved to be very difficult, he said.
Jantzi is a biology teacher at North Tonawanda High School, which has later start and dismissal times than Springville. NT also is roughly an hour away (on a good traffic day) from the Griffins’ Pop Warner Field – which resulted in him showing up late for practice sessions and made it challenging on school days to oversee off-season workouts. NT dismissal is 2:45 p.m., roughly 30 minutes after Springville’s. The Griffins practiced from 3-5 p.m. on school days.
Jantzi informed his players Wednesday afternoon of his decision not to reapply for the coaching position.
“It’s hard not being in the school and not being able to keep track of the kids,” Jantzi said. “It’s tough because I’m going to miss the kids. I forged relationships with them. … It’s my alma mater, but circumstances.”
Jantzi guided the Griffins to the Class B South Division title and a Class B semifinal appearance in 2015. He posted an 11-6 record during his Springville tenure. He served as an assistant under head coach Rob Valenti in 2014, who stepped down into an assistant’s role after that season due to family commitments. That opened the door for Jantzi to move from offensive coordinator to head coach.
It seemed like it would be a great fit for Jantzi, who had family and a weekend home in Springville even though his primary residence was 30 minutes away in Orchard Park.
“I thought I was going to be at Springville a long time but some things came up and it didn’t work out,” said Jantzi, noting that Valenti has been a tremendous help but it was still tough not being there on time for team activities and not being able to interact with players during the school day.
While one could believe a solution would have been to start practices and workouts later, several athletes on the team hold down after-school jobs and also need time to do homework. “It wasn’t fair to them" to make them wait for me to arrive, Jantzi said.
Jantzi is proud the team broke 17 school records, including points in a game and rushing yards in a game, during his time as coach. He also coached a record-setting rusher in 2016 first team All-Western New Yorker and Connolly Cup finalist Ian Baker.
“We accomplished a lot,” Jantzi said. “A bunch of good memories. … I’ll miss working with the kids and being part of that community. I’ll try to get back and see them as much as I can.”
Springville Athletic Director Joe DeMartino, who said when you have a coach of Jantzi's stature you try to keep him around, said the school will begin searching for a replacement and hopes to have a new coach approved by the school board by March. The school board meets once a month in Springville, with the next one being Monday.
Jantzi did not rule out coaching somewhere next season. He did serve as an assistant at Orchard Park during the Quakers’ 2011 state championship season, taking that post shortly after stepping down as NT coach in 2010.
“I’m going to play it by ear and see what happens, discuss things with my family,” said Jantzi, who is 97-29 as a head coach. “I think I would go nuts if I didn’t coach, or drive my family nuts if I didn’t coach. I’ll look for a good fit.”