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"What happend was that we showed up at the board meeting and a lot of those hopes — our leap of faith — were crushed. We settled back, talked through some things, then came to the conclusion that this was not the right opportunity, not the right time for us," stated a gracious Nate Andrews, after announcing Tuesday afternoon that he decided against signing a contract to coach football and teach at Bellmont High School.
"It's been a roller coaster, whirlwind ... been an experience," said Andrews, the football and wrestling coach at Lapel, who will now stay with his teams at that small school.
Andrews, his wife, Kati, and young child Viviana, attended last Tuesday's North Adams School Board meeting hoping to get come confirmation of what was a difficult decision to leave a community that they cared about, a life they had built, to come to Decatur and start over, with a lot of uncertainties.
The contentious board meeting and 3-2 vote to approve Andrews, and the doom and gloom atmosphere exhibited by some of the board members, definitely caught them off guard, and propelled Nate to this point, and another difficult decision.
"It was exactly the opposite of what we expected. We thought it would be healthy experience to go up there and be embraced by the community. Unfortunately, it did not happen that way. Everything happens for a reason.
We don't know what. We can grow from it, and become better people," said the young coach, who was a captain for his Ball State football team a decade ago.
"Something like that (board meeting) I can overcome. But what it did was give us a little reality check. It allowed us to really think about decision and whether it was the right one," he explained.
Andrews was pleased and impressed by the outpouring of the community in response to the cold shoulder of the board meeting last week. Besides calls and emails from numerous individuals, including Decatur Mayor John Schultz, 46 varsity and jayvee football players from Bellmont signed a letter asking him to come, and it was delivered to him prior to his final decision.
"We still feel it's a great and tremendous community. We very much like the town of Decatur. It was a very, very difficult decision for us. My family has appreciated the encouragement and all the support shown to us the last few days by everyone involved," said Andrews.
Had circumstances been different, had the Andrews been warned of the possibilities, or if Andrews was really wanting to leave Lapel, then it's likely the decision would be to come to Decatur..
"We might have been ready for it, had someone warned us. We could have sat back and just watched. But we were completely blown away by it," he admitted.
"I do not fault the members for voting. I just wish it had been handled differently. But these things happen for a reason," offered Andrews.
Board President Michelle Stimpson and board member Deb Bergman, the wife of former coach Toney Bergman, who quit after Bellmont's 2008 state championship because of a change of building assignment, voted against Andrews, who most certainly was an outstanding candidate.
Though Andrews had few critical remarks, he did have a message for Decatur and Bellmont constituants. "I do want to say this, North Adams is tremendously lucky to have the administration that they have. Those men are top notch. They do things the right way, they go about business in a first-class manner," praised Andrews, who spent many long conversations with BHS Principal Scot Croner and Athletic Director Dale Manis.
The Andrews had accepted the initial offer, knowing that Kati would not be guaranteed a job, and that their income might be slice by 40 percent.
"Originally, when I was offered the job, my wife and I basically took a leap of faith, giving up a lot of securities we had here, to join a community that I always admired as kid. Decatur has the traditions, the enthusiasm, a great feel that the Bellmont programs create.
"This is a time to do what is best for my family and to continue to do that. With the leadership that they have, Decatur and North Adams and Bellmont will be fine as long as Bellmont continues to have the tremendous backing that it does from the community, it will thrive in all situations."
Andrews was disappointed. He was looking forward to working with the young men at Bellmont, and to working with the wrestling staff. "I was really, really looked forward to working up there with those guys. Coach Faurote and his staff are guys that I have admired. In a way, they were role models for me. I was looking forward to working with them and would have learned a lot."
He admits that it's going to be tough to find the right person now. This situation ... will take a special person. Anyone who might apply, get back into race right now, is a special person," said Andrews.
The young coach has some advice for those who would predict doom for Bellmont.
"This is not the time for Bellmont — the kids, coaches and fans — to sit around and sulk, to blame some and point fingers. It's time for the community to rally around each other, to learn from what has taken place, move forward, grow and become better."