Franklin Regional’s Greg Botta puts off retirement, back for 26th year

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Saturday, August 10, 2019 | 7:24 PM


With the advent of one-year contracts, annual player turnover and the season-to-season minutia that comes with the job, it is not unusual for veteran football coaches to contemplate retirement in the offseason.

Greg Botta admits it has crossed his mind.

But this time, he really considered calling it a career at Franklin Regional.

He almost walked away.

“I was a lot more serious about it this time than in past years,” said Botta, who instead decided to stick around for a 26th season — only he knows if there will be more — and will lead the Panthers into training camp Monday. “I was pleased with how last season went, how we beat Bethel Park (in the playoffs) and how we played better against Gateway the second time around. I loved the resilience of our guys. They fought through a lot of adversity.

“I’ll put it in God’s hands,” said Botta, Westmoreland County’s longest-tenured coach. “We’ll see what happens after this year.”

Botta, who started coaching as an assistant at IUP in 1980 when he was 20 (he was one of the youngest coaches in college football at the time) is committed to keeping the Panthers’ streak of 15 straight WPIAL playoff appearances intact.

His tenure at Franklin Regional began in 1992 when he was a defensive coordinator.

He took over the Panthers’ head coaching job in 1994 after then-athletic director Bob Bozzuto approached him about possibly being Abby Mauro’s replacement.

The next year, the Panthers reached the WPIAL title game at Three Rivers Stadium.

One critical element that has fueled Botta’s offseason speculation is family. He does not have any family members in the area. They’re spread throughout the country — Philadelphia, San Diego, Phoenix and Texas, among the places he has visited in recent months.

The Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Hall of Fame coach thinks he has trekked more than 35,000 miles to spend time with family. He said from November to May, he spent roughly 90 days at home.

Botta, who retired from teaching in 2011, said he’d like to do more traveling with his brother to “see the world” when he finally does step aside.

“Honestly, I probably left teaching a year or two early,” he said. “When it does happen, and I decide to go, it’s going to be very hard for me. I have been here a long time. For now, I thought it was best to come back and be with my other family.”

Botta said he likes the size and toughness of his current group, staples of his teams for years. He is known for producing physical, diligent players — particularly linebackers, a position at which he stood out at Penn Hills and IUP.

After six concussions — yes, six — and some advisement from coaches, he hesitantly decided to stop playing as a sophomore at IUP. His coach, Bill Neal, told him he had qualities that might best be applied to coaching.

Botta took his advice, allowing him to get his football fix and let off steam in another way.

“The freshmen and sophomores probably think I am a hard (butt),” Botta said. “And the juniors and seniors probably say I am a big softy at heart.”

One former player was inspired by the Botta.

“He truly cares about us as people, not just as players,” said former Franklin Regional standout Colin Jonov, who is joining Botta’s coaching staff this season. “He will do anything in his power to help you out. Once I found out he was coming back, I wanted to come back and coach.

“He is a genuine person. When you think about Franklin Regional football, you think about Coach Botta.”

Botta has 169 career wins at Franklin Regional.

Brewer on track

Rising Greensburg Central Catholic sophomore Corinn Brewer has had a productive offseason in track.

Brewer, who placed third in the 1,600-meter run and seventh in the pole vault and 800 at last year’s PIAA championships, came away a four-time All-American at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in the 15-16 age group. Brewer won the 2,000 steeplechase, took second in the 3,000 and finished eighth in the heptathlon and pole vault.

She also posted a fourth-place finish in the pole vault at the New Balance Nationals.

Brewer’s father, Mike, is the track and field coach at GCC and also coaches the Valley Speedsters Track Club.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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