The Panther Valley football team will be under new leadership next September. The school board approved the hiring of Lonnie Hazlet as the head football coach, awarding him a three year contract beginning with the 2011-12 school year. Hazlet's salary has been set at $4,225, with a $50 increase each year.

Although several board members praised Hazlet's qualifications and spoke highly of the new coach, the vote to hire him was 6-3. Directors Irene Genther, Anthony DeMarco and R. Mickey Angst voted against the motion, indicating that they were not in favor of the three year contract.

Hazlet has a long and distinguished career as a football coach.

He is currently an assistant football coach at Wilkes University, where he has coached since 2008. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Pittston Area High School from January 2005-2008. He served as the head football coach at DuBois High School, in western Pennsylvania from 2000-2005. His squad won the District 9 AAAA Championship in 2004. He was the head football coach at Karns City High School, also in Western Pennsylvania, from 1995-2000. His team won the District 9 AA championships in 1997 and 1999. He was also an assistant coach at Slippery Rock University from 1987-1995.

Hazlet won Coach of the Year awards from PIAA District 9 and the Western PA Coaches Association in 1997. He was also the Nike Western PA Coach of the Year in 1997.

Panther Valley Athletic Director Kristin Black said that Hazlet brings a lot to the table.

"He's got some ideas that have never been done before," she said. "He's very experienced. His resume speaks for itself."

Black said that Hazlet will continue the positive direction that Panther Valley football has been going in for the past several years.

Hazlet replaces Frank Damian as head coach. Damian coached the Panthers the last four years, compiling a 20-22 record. In 2008, he led Panther Valley to a 7-3 record, which was the most wins in a season in a decade. He followed that with a 9-3 record and a District 11 Class AA playoff appearance in 2009. This past season, the Panthers slipped to 1-9. When the position was opened following the season, Damian told the TIMES NEWS he planned to re-apply.

The board also hired Michelle Markovich as the head cross country coach at a salary of $2,125 for the 2011-12 school year. It was noted that the team must carry at least the minimum required members for PIAA competition, which is five.

Board member Irene Genther raised concerns over hiring Markovich, who is the wife of school board president Jeff Markovich, saying that the hiring violated the board's code of conduct. Markovich abstained from the vote. Director David Hiles remarked that Michelle has volunteered for the school for years and lauded her commitment to the Panther Valley students. "We have a hard time finding people who are qualified to step up to these positions," he said.

The Board approved the hiring of Francis O'Gorman as the head track and field coach, at a salary of $2,600 for the 2010-11 school year.

The Board also created a position for a strength and conditioning coach. It was noted that this position has existed in the past, however, has not been filled recently.