Created on Friday, 01 February 2013 Written by MATT HAMMOND
After turning Tigers into a power, he looks to restore tradition in Chieftain program
Toby Smith is leaving one local football program for another.
Smith, who won 111 games in 14 seasons at West Liberty-Salem, has been hired as Bellefontaine’s new head coach.
“My wife and I felt like this was the right time and right opportunity,” said Smith. “There were a lot of circumstances that we felt warranted this move.”
The announcement was made this morning during a special meeting of the Bellefontaine Board of Education. The board voted unanimously to accept Smith as a physical education teacher and head football coach.
“Looking at Toby’s resume, I think it speaks for itself,” said Bellefontaine superintendent Beth Harman. “He has a great record as a head coach for many years and we are excited to have somebody like that lead the program in Bellefontaine.”
Smith replaces Chris Schmidt, who was let go in December after three seasons at the helm.
For WL-Salem, the news was difficult to swallow.
“It’s really tough for me,” said WL-Salem athletic director Jake Vitt. “We are not only losing a coach that has built a tremendous legacy here, we are losing someone that has become a great friend of mine as well.
“At the same time, I am happy for Toby. This is a new challenge for him. This is not something new. He’s gotten calls from other schools just about every year around this time, but he didn’t want to uproot his family. This is a golden opportunity that he felt like he couldn’t pass up.”
Smith said the most difficult part of making the decision to leave WL-Salem was having to inform his players of his departure.
“That was extremely difficult,” he said. “I have built a lot of strong relationships with the kids. To tell them I won’t be with them anymore was heart-wrenching.”
Possessing a career mark of 111-40, Smith built WL-Salem into a local football power. He took the Tigers to the playoffs seven times. All of those appearances came within the last nine years.
“He stood out, mostly because of his experience as head coach,” said Harman of Smith during the interview process. “We felt like we needed that type of experience to move the program forward.”
The Tigers enjoyed four perfect regular seasons under Smith, including the last two campaigns. Smith has not lost a regular-season game as a head coach since Week 6 of the 2010 season.
Smith guided the Tigers to a winning record in each of the last 10 seasons. During that span, WL-Salem finished with 10 or more wins five times.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Smith of his time with the Tigers. “I had the opportunity to coach a lot of great kids and work with a great administration and a great staff. That is something I will always hold dear to my heart.”
Smith’s teams developed a reputation for playing disciplined and gritty football.
“It all starts with his rapport he has with the kids at school and that carries over to the field,” said Vitt. “It is a testament to how important it is to have your head coach in the school. He hounds his players about their grades and he truly cares about them academically. We have had some kids graduate that probably would not have graduated without him being here.”
He will now try to re-energize a Bellefontaine program that has just seven wins in the last three seasons. The Chiefs are coming off a 1-8 campaign last fall.
“They have some athletes I am excited to meet and coach,” said Smith. “I am looking forward to being part of the Bellefontaine school district and hopefully bring some excitement to the football team there.”
A native of Connecticut and a graduate of Wittenberg University, Smith also coached baseball for the Tigers and won more than 300 games. He will remain the Tigers’ baseball coach for the upcoming spring season.