Jerry Davitch

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Jerry Davitch
Biographical details
Born (1941-06-09) June 9, 1941 (age 77)
Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1969–1972Tucson (AZ) Salpointe HS
1973–1975Air Force (OL)
1976–1977Air Force (WR)
1985–1990Greater Johnstown HS (PA)
Head coaching record
Overall15–29 (college)

Jerry J. Davitch (born June 9, 1941) is a former college football coach and secondary school administrator. Since 2004 he has served as the superintendent of schools in Richland Township, just northeast of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He served in a similar capacity for eight years (1996–2004) in nearby Conemaugh Township in Davidsville. He was previously the principal of Conemaugh Township High School and its head football coach.

Playing career[edit]

The son of immigrant parents, Davitch played on the offensive line at Greater Johnstown High School in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was an undersized right guard (5 ft 10 in (1.78 m), 168 lb (76 kg)) for the Trojans on an undefeated championship team in the fall of 1958. After graduation in 1959, he accepted a scholarship and headed west to play college football and wrestle at the University of Arizona in Tucson.[1] Davitch started two years at guard for the Wildcats and was the captain of the wrestling team as a senior; he earned a bachelor's degree in education from UA in 1965.[2][3]

Early coaching career[edit]

After starting as an assistant coach, Davitch first became a head coach in 1969 at Salpointe High School in Tucson. His record was 28–12 (.700) in the four years, including a 9–1 season in 1971.[4] While at Salpointe, he completed his master's degree in secondary education at UA in 1971. His offense at Salpointe used the relatively new wishbone formation.[5][6]

Davitch moved up to college ranks after the 1972 season as an assistant coach at Air Force for five seasons, from 1973 through 1977.[7] Under head coach Ben Martin, Davitch coached the offensive line for the first three seasons and receivers for the final two.[8]

Collegiate head coach[edit]

On January 10, 1978, Davitch was hired as the head coach of the Idaho Vandals of the Big Sky Conference, at an annual salary of US$26,000.[9][10]

At the time, the Idaho football program had posted just four winning seasons in over four decades, and the last four head coaches had been fired after two to four seasons. In addition, no Vandal head football coach had left with a winning record since 1928. Through the 1977 season, Idaho was a Division I football program in a Division II football conference. When the Big Sky was formed in 1963, Idaho intended to join for all sports except football, and continued to play as a "University Division" independent, which it did through 1964 with Dee Andros. At the time, there were six teams in the conference and one did not play football (Gonzaga), for only four conference games per year.

Idaho reluctantly agreed to conference play for the 1965 season, but maintained the upper tier status by filling their non-conference schedule with other University Division teams. After a weak schedule in 1966, when "Thunder Ray" McDonald led the nation in rushing, the program was temporarily downgraded by the NCAA in August 1967,[11] but was elevated back to the University Division in July 1969,[12] which was renamed "Division I" for the 1973 season. The Big Sky added two teams in 1970, and it became increasingly difficult for the Vandals to stay healthy through its non-conference games, then often fared poorly with reserves when conference play resumed. With the formation of Division I-AA in 1978, both Idaho and the Big Sky were moved to the new division for its first year, also Davitch's.

Davitch replaced the popular Ed Troxel, a longtime defensive assistant and former head coach of the track team. Troxel was asked to resign by the new university president on New Year's Eve, six weeks after his fourth season concluded with a 3–8 record. The Vandals were 7–4 the previous season in 1976, for their first winning record in five years. (Troxel, the head coach at Borah High in Boise for its first nine years (1958–66), had been reluctant to accept the position; he turned it down after the 1970 and 1973 seasons, but was ultimately persuaded by the players to accept.)

Davitch retained the veer option on offense, but the progress was slow in his first two seasons. In his third season in 1980, the improving Vandals went 6–5 with walk-on redshirt freshman Ken Hobart at quarterback, with a 4–3 record in conference play. Expectations were high entering the 1981 season,[13] and the "Gold Rush" Vandals were picked as one of the top five teams in Division I-AA by Sports Illustrated.[14][15] The Vandals lost close games and then were hit by injuries; they lost their final six games to finish at 3–8 and were winless in conference. (Mercurial Idaho State won the Big Sky and the Division I-AA title in 1981.)

Davitch compiled a 15–29 (.341) record in his four seasons in Moscow and became the fifth consecutive head coach to fired.[16] He was notified nine days before his final game,[17] a 43–45 home loss to rival Boise State, the defending I-AA national champions.[18] Davitch was succeeded by 34-year-old Dennis Erickson, hired on December 11. Idaho achieved success in the next two decades and did not fire a head football coach for 22 years (Tom Cable after 2003).

After Idaho[edit]

In 1982, Davitch returned to Tucson to work as an athletics administrator for the public school district and as a broadcaster for Arizona football.[19][20] While at Idaho in 1980, Davitch had interviewed for the Arizona head coaching position, which went to Larry Smith, then at Tulane.

After several years in Arizona, Davitch returned to Pennsylvania and was the head coach at his alma mater, Greater Johnstown High School, from 1985 to 1990. In six seasons, he had a 37–23–3 (.611) record, which included a title in 1989. Davitch was later the head coach at Conemaugh Township High School in Davidsville.[21] Davitch was also the principal of CT High School, and later the superintendent of schools (1996–2004). In 2004, he became superintendent of schools in Richland Township, just northeast of his childhood hometown of Johnstown.

At age 73, Davitch came out of retirement in 2014 to be the head football coach at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown.[22]


While head coach at Idaho, Davitch married his wife Terry and both of their sons were born, Jim and Jerry.[20] Both served as officers in the U.S. Air Force, as did their wives.[2]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Idaho Vandals (Big Sky Conference) (1978–1981)
1978 Idaho 2–9 2–4 6th
1979 Idaho 4–7 2–5 6th
1980 Idaho 6–5 4–3 4th
1981 Idaho 3–8 0–7 8th
Idaho: 15–29 8–19
Total: 15–29


  1. ^ *Johnstown Football 1958 – accessed 2010-05-13
  2. ^ a b "Shared honor: Davitch credits those who helped him succeed". Tribune-Democrat. Johnstown, Pennsylvania. July 11, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  3. ^ "Football Media Guide: All-time Letterman" (PDF). University of Arizona Athletics. 2013. p. 73. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 5, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  4. ^ "Football Record Book". Tucson, Arizona: Salpointe Catholic High School. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  5. ^ Missildine, Harry (January 11, 1978). "Idaho forming a new image". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 15.
  6. ^ Stewart, Chuck (January 11, 1978). "Davitch, boss renew acquaintance". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Washington. p. 29.
  7. ^ Missildine, Harry (January 11, 1978). "Davitch new Idaho football coach". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 15.
  8. ^ Go Air Force Falcons – 2010 media guide – all-time coaches – p.64 – accessed 2011-10-04
  9. ^ Emerson, Paul (January 11, 1978). "Davitch named UI coach". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. B1.
  10. ^ "Vandal cagers investigated". Spokesman Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. January 12, 1978. p. 25.
  11. ^ "Ostyn says Pacific cost major status". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. August 9, 1967. p. 15.
  12. ^ "NCAA ups 4 colleges". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. July 2, 1969. p. 22.
  13. ^ Missildine, Harry (August 5, 1981). "Davitch still has the lines – and some players, too". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. B1.
  14. ^ Delnagro, Mike (August 31, 1981). "Small Colleges". Sports Illustrated: 64.
  15. ^ "Football: fall 1981". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1982. p. 204.
  16. ^ Emerson, Paul (November 14, 1981). "UI President Gibb says he made decision to fire Davitch". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1C.
  17. ^ Emerson, Paul (November 13, 1981). "UI fires football coach Jerry Davitch". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1C.
  18. ^ Emerson, Paul (November 22, 1981). "Idaho bids goodbye to Davitch with loss". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 2D.
  19. ^ Killen, John (May 8, 1982). "Jerry Davitch lands job with Tucson school district". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 3C.
  20. ^ a b Devlin, Vince (February 14, 1983). "Once a bearer of bad tidings, Jerry Davitch is surviving". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 15.
  21. ^ Richland School District – Administration – Jerry Davitch
  22. ^ "Jerry Davitch named head football coach". Bishop McCort High School. April 8, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2014.