Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wrestling: Blair moving on without Buxton in charge

Longtime Blair Academy wrestling coach Jeff Buxton has moved on and the Blairstown school is also forging ahead with the 2012-13 school year.

Buxton, to the casual observer, abruptly resigned on Aug. 25 and left behind a national powerhouse that has captured 32 straight National Prep championships. The Bucs have been ranked 10 times as the nation's top program since 1995.

Blair headmaster T. Chandler Hardwick said Buxton approached him in July about the possibility of stepping down from his coaching post -- a position he's either held as co- or full-time head coach since 1984.

"This process started in July," Hardwick said when reached at his office on Thursday. "We talked about it. His reasons are personal in nature -- personal, professional and family. We went round and round about it and he decided to move on from Blair. I understand [the timing] being odd [to outside parties]. But he had been thinking about it for awhile. We certainly support him."

Hardwick confirmed that assistant coach Charles Danhof, who has been with the program for 10 years, assumes the interim head coaching duties. The school will be conducting a search for a full-time head coach in the near future. Buxton was unavailable for comment on his resignation or his coaching future.

"Because of the timing [of Buxton's resignation], I suggested to the Board of Trustees [to appoint Danhof as interim coach]," Hardwick said. "Getting the school year started was very important to us."

Hardwick said that he had a very good relationship with Buxton and that he's already received several calls about the high-profile coach from potential employers. According to one reliable source, Rutgers is interested in adding Buxton to head coach Scott Goodale's staff.

"I think he's going to have a lot of offers," Hardwick said. "I think he's going to take some time to reassess what's important to him. I've had a number of conversations with people and I say "Good luck with [pursuing him to coach]. I don't know if Jeff is ready [to accept] when anybody calls."

Buxton's resignation at this time of year certainly raises some eyebrows. Though Hardwick agreed with that notion, he would not get into specifics as to why Buxton stepped down just days before the school year. Hardwick did say that he had a very strong relationship with the former coach.

"I think we considered each other friends," Hardwick said. "But again, I am his employer and he made that decision."

Hardwick said that Blair is very proud of its wrestling program and the notoriety it has brought to the school. However, wrestling is not the end all and be all. If Blair can remain as one of the top wrestling programs in the country remains to be seen.

"[Wrestling] has given us a national exposure that we're very proud of," Hardwick said. "But if wrestling or one of our other programs stopped functioning, our school is very resilient. The reality is that we're not a life support system for a great high school wrestling program. We're just a mother ship. The community doesn't feel dependent on wrestling as an identity of our institution."

Hardwick did say that Blair expects to have a great 2012-13 season regardless of recent circumstances.

"I think Jeff would say the same thing," Hardwick said. "I hope he comes back and visits us in the fall. He loves these kids and has a close relationship with them."

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