Jeff Rotsky said he resigned as head football coach at Cleveland Heights High School because “I’ve got to be a father first.”
In an interview Jan. 9, Rotsky said administrators from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district refused to accommodate his request to schedule the Tigers’ home games on Saturdays next season so he could watch his son, Bailey, play football for Mayfield High School on Friday nights.
“I had to make a decision, and if we’re playing on Friday night, I have to resign,” he said. “I would have been able to see six or seven (of Mayfield’s games if Cleveland Heights were to play its home games on Saturdays).
“As hard as it is to walk away from this, I’ve got to be there for my son.”
A spokesperson for the CH-UH district told the Cleveland Jewish News last week that Heights High Athletic Director Kristin Hughes met with Rotsky Jan. 6 and asked for his resignation, and that Rotsky verbally agreed to resign. The district then chose not to renew his coaching contract, the spokesperson said.
Rotsky said it’s not true that Hughes asked for his resignation.
“It was my decision,” he said. “It was a verbal resignation (to Hughes), nothing in writing.
“I had a great review from my athletic director. She’s an incredible person, and we’re building this thing together. Jeff Rotsky has been all in to help Cleveland Heights, no matter what I do.”
Rotsky also said “a couple years ago,” he talked to Hughes about his desire to watch his son play football on Friday nights and asked if Cleveland Heights’ home football schedule could be modified. As a result, he said, three of the Tigers’ five home games last season were played on Saturday. Their Oct. 24 homecoming game was the lone Friday contest, and the season finale was played on a Thursday, Oct. 30.
But last summer, the district hired a new administrative principal, Zoraba Ross, and Rotsky said he was told through Hughes that Ross decided the Tigers’ home games in 2015 would be played on Friday nights.
“It was, ‘This is the way it is, period, end of story,’” Rotsky said.
Hughes was asked to respond to Rotsky’s comments. She issued this emailed statement Jan. 12:
“Mr. Rotsky made deliberate and informed choices that resulted in his separation from our football program, and these choices included a refusal to meet the reasonable expectations of our system,” she said.
“We are a public educational institution with the fundamental mission of assisting children to learn and contribute to society. Our personnel decisions are made through the perspective of what is in the best interests of our students.
“We wish him well in all future endeavors.”
In addition, Rotsky noted the district is renovating the high school with construction set to begin this summer. High school students will attend classes at Wiley Middle School in University Heights during the construction.
“There will be no place for shelter (at the high school) on Friday nights, so it makes a lot of sense (to play the home games) on Saturday afternoon,” he said.
In her statement, Hughes said, “In the event of inclement weather, regardless of if it’s a Friday night or Saturday afternoon game, we are going to make sure we get our kids to safety.”
Bailey Rotsky is sophomore at Mayfield. He missed the entire 2014 football season due to an injury, but Rotsky said he believes he has a good chance to see varsity action this fall.
Rotsky, 48, compiled a 45-36 record in eight years, including 3-6 last season, as Cleveland Heights’ head coach. He guided the school to its first playoff appearance in 2011, when the Tigers finished the regular season at 9-0 and fell to Lakewood St. Edward in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I playoffs.
Cleveland Heights advanced to the postseason again in 2013, when it defeated Wadsworth 35-7 for its first playoff win before being eliminated again by St. Edward. The Tigers were 10-2 that season.
“The greatest highlights are not football highlights,” he said. “My highest high is to see kids who no one has given a chance to on the podium on national signing day, knowing they’re going on and will earn a free or close to free (college) education. That’s the second-best day of every year, next to Thanksgiving.”
Before coming to Cleveland Heights, Rotsky compiled a 45-11 record in five seasons as head coach at Maple Heights High School, leading the Mustangs to the Division II playoffs every year. Prior to that, he posted a 33-12 mark in four years at now-closed Bedford St. Peter Chanel, which was Division V state runner-up in 2000.
“I’ve had a little bit of success coaching football,” he said. “It’s not that I’m a good football coach; I’m probably average. But these kids know (when they need help) they have someplace to go, someplace to call and someone they can trust. That’s what matters to me.”
Rotsky, of Gates Mills, said he’s proud of his Jewish heritage and the way his parents raised him and his siblings. He and his wife, Gina, also have a daughter, Emmie.
A 1984 graduate of Beachwood High School, Rotsky earned a bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University and a master’s from CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management. He’s a senior vice president and financial advisor for Morgan Stanley, a New York-based financial services corporation with an office in Pepper Pike.
But Rotsky says he wants to coach football again – preferably at Cleveland Heights.
“I’m just hoping somehow they’ll change their minds a little bit,” he said. “I’m hoping someone out there will say, ‘He’s done some pretty good work.’
“I would love to be back. I’m not a guy to hold grudges; I want to be there for the kids. But I’ve got to be there for my son.”