Suspended Land O'Lakes High School football coach Matt Kitchie will not be back on the Gators' sideline next season.
Land O'Lakes principal Ric Mellin confirmed that the school told Kitchie before the winter break that they "will not be re-appointing him to the position of head football coach." Kitchie will continue to teach at Land O'Lakes as a physical education teacher.
"The decision was made and a lot of the things that went into that decision I can't speak to because there's a student involved," Mellin said. "I don't want to go into details, but we did make a decision to not reappoint him to his position as head football coach."
Kitchie was suspended indefinitely prior to the Gators' regular-season finale against Hudson after an off-the-field incident involving starting quarterback Stevie Weatherford, defensive coordinator Jason Hatcher and cheerleading coach Celisa Cook. Kitchie missed the Gators' final two games, a 42-10 win over Hudson and a 54-19 loss to Jefferson in the region quarterfinals.
In two seasons at Land O'Lakes, Kitchie went 17-3, not including the two games he was suspended. The Gators finished as district runners-up and advanced to the playoffs in each of Kitchie's two seasons.
"I had a great run at Land O'Lakes," Kitchie said. "We had a great record while I was the head coach, and I think, as of right now, we've sent 11 kids on to play college ball. I feel like we did some great things. Moving forward, I see great things for all the great kids at Land O'Lakes. It's sad that we had to move on, but we're waiting for other great opportunities.
"The best part of the situation is that now there's closure and we can move on. The situation happened where I was suspended. As the head coach, I'm responsible for the whole program."
The "situation" involved Weatherford getting into trouble in November for throwing around a bottle, which was confiscated and thrown away, in the school commons. Questions about the contents of the bottle, which was said to have contained alcohol, and the way Kitchie, Hatcher and Cook handled the situation led to their suspensions.
With numerous head coaching vacancies popping up over the bay area, it's expected Kitchie's absence from coaching will be short lived.
"Sometimes you've just got to do what's good for the kids," Kitchie said. "I'm sure the kids will adapt. I'm not worried about myself getting another coaching job. I've got my teaching job, and I'll be a great teacher."
Mellin said that the head coaching vacancy at Land O'Lakes will be posted in the next couple of days and that the school would like to have a new coach in place as quickly as possible.
"We will be posting the position, if not today or tomorrow, it'll be posted sometime next week," Mellin said. "I'd like to have someone in position before spring ball. To me, the sooner the better. For offseason conditioning, having the weight room open and the staff in place is very important."