"It was time," stated Bellmont football coach Rick Burkhalter, who turned in his resignation Tuesday afternoon after two years as head coach and eight years as an assistant.
"If they have teaching openings, and can fill that with a football coach, then that's what they need to do," said Burkhalter, who took the reins for the 2009 season along with Greg Meyer, who then stepped back as an assistant head coach for 2010.
Meyer, the veteran line coach for the Braves, also is getting out, as is assistant coach Mike Stimpson.
"I wasn't sure by the end of the season, but after sitting back and reassessing things, for the good of the program it's time for me to step away. It's time to get somebody in the school, a new teacher and coach," said Meyer Tuesday night.
Greg Meyer intends to spend the next few falls following his son, Daniel Meyer, the record-setting BHS fullback, as he toils for the University of Indianapolis.
Bellmont took the 3A state championship in the fall of 2008. The following summer, head coach Toney Bergman, a brother to Burkhalter, resigned. With 15 starters returning, Burkhalter and Meyer stepped in and kept the staff intact. The Braves followed the 14-1 championship season with a solid 8-4 record in '09. The Braves suffered through an injury-riddled 2010, going 4-6.
"They knew from day one that eventually we needed to hire a teacher and coach and they were fine with that. We're now going to move forward with applications to fill the position," stated Bellmont Principal Scot Croner.
"They are stand-up guys. We were fortunate to have men of that quality to step in like that. Hopefully, they'll return to Bellmont and coach for us someday," said Croner.
As Burkhalter and Meyer considered ending their stay at the top of the program, Croner and North Adams officials worked to make changes. As many as five teachers will take advantage of the a special incentive program and will retire after this school year.
"With the number of retirements that were coming this year, this is as good a time as any to make the switch. We can't be sure we'd have the openings in future years," said Croner.
"We really appreciate the job that these coaches have done. They are good role models for our students and they've worked hard and put a lot into the program," praised Croner, who noted that Burkhalter indicated to athletics director Dale Manis last Friday that he intended to step down.
Burkhalter will remain as the girls softball coach. He replaces Aaron Baker, who stepped down after last season to take an assistant principal's post at Bellmont.
Croner has not heard from the rest of the staff, but is hopeful that a few of the coaches will remain.
"Whoever does take over as head coach, it always comes down to that individual, but we definitely feel that all the guys have done an outstanding job and we'll recommend them to the new coach," added Croner.
The BHS principal feels that the timing is good to search for a coach.
"We had a heckuva run," said Burkhalter, the offensive coordinator the last several years.
"It's been good. I've loved it, and it will be strange not being on the sidelines on Friday nights, but it was time to go, and with the teaching openings ... well, they need someone in the building. That's what is best," noted Burkhalter.
Both Burkhalter and Meyer will remain on duty in the weight room, helping the returning Bellmont football players progress for next season.
"We'll be there until the new coaches take over," agreed Meyer. "One of the best things that ever happened to Bellmont football was that weight room. The kids bought into it, and it's helped in all sports. You can't just show up in August and expect to compete today in high school football."