You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Saline hires football coach Joe Palka from Ohio powerhouse

By Pete Cunningham

Saline High School announced today the hiring of Joe Palka as its varsity football coach. He takes over for Mike Glennie, who resigned in late November, according to athletic director Rob White.

Palka has been the coach of Ohio powerhouse Toledo Whitmer for the past six years. Under Palka, Whitmer made the playoffs in all but one season and made it to the state semifinals each of the past two years.

"I’m kind of still in shock to land a coach of Joe’s reputation,” said White. "We’re excited and extremely pleased."

Whitmer has a reputation for producing college talent. Michigan senior tight end Kevin Koger is a 2008 Whitmer graduate who played for two years under Palka and holds school records for career receiving yards (1,210), career touchdown receptions (16) and single-game receiving yards (210). Michigan 2012 commit Chris Wormley also played at Whitmer.


Joe Palka

Photo courtesy of Saline Athletics

White said the Whitmer athletic department is one he's tried to emulate for years and Palka a coach he's kept an eye on. When Glennie resigned, White contacted Palka.

Palka will also be filling a previously vacant assistant principal position and will be assistant athletic director as White assumes assistant principal responsibilities as well. Palka said everything about the situation in Saline was appealing.

"A position where you can be an administrator and coach is an ideal position in this stage in my career...I see a potential state champion," Palka said. "The truth of the matter is I love a challenge, and building programs."

Palka also noted the district's academic reputation was appealing, as he and his wife, Kaleen, have two school-aged sones: Jeb, an eighth grader, and Tyler, a junior. Their daughter, Emileen, is a freshman in college.

In addition to coaching at Whitmer, Palka has been a high school coach at Petersburg-Summerfield (Mich.) from 1988-90, Toledo Central Catholic from 1990-94 and Bryan (Ohio) from 1996-98. He also was head coach at Division II St. Joseph College in 1995, a part-time coach at Adrian College from 2002-03. He was also a recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, where he lettered as a player from 1984-86.

White said the district is targeting mid-January as a start-date for Palka.

Palka informed the Washington Local School District -- where he was a physical education teacher, as well -- and his departure was announced via press release on Monday.

“We thank Joe Palka for the six years of coaching and teaching that he has provided to our school system," Whitmer athletic director Tom Snook said in a press release. "He has had the most wins of any coach in Region 2, Division I, over the last six years. He has propelled Whitmer football to great achievements, and I thank him for all he has done for Whitmer football and for the Washington Local community.”

Palka's described his teams at Whitmer as "up-tempo, spread formations" on offense with a multiple formation, 4-3 defense. His son, Tyler, started at quarterback for Whitmer last year as a junior.

"My hope is that (Tyler) joins the Saline team, but a final decision has not been made yet," said Palka.

Palka's time at Whitmer was not without controversy. The Ohio State Athletic Association launched a formal investigation of the the athletics program this fall. Whitmer was declared eligible for the playoffs after the OHSAA could not find evidence of violation of any eligibility bylaws. The investigation remains open.

"I feel strongly that Whitmer’s done everything correctly and have cooperated fully with the investigation," Palka said. "Unfortunately, when you search Whitmer, in addition to all the good things we've accomplished, it's one of the things that pops up, but we've been open about it."

Glennie coached at Saline for 10 years, compiling a 54-44 record with playoff apperances in 2003, '05, '06, '08, and '10. The 2006 teams advanced to a Division 1 quarterfinal. He could not be reached for comment.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 6:10 a.m.

this guy is going to be trouble for saline. I dont care about the salary. i am focusing on the rules violations he has at his current school. no follow up? no investigation?


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Isn't it a conflict of interest to have a football coach also be the assistant athletic director? If you were another coach do you think you'll ever get any field time? The football teams push the other sports to late hours, fields at the middle school yet they already have their "own" practice field (which no other team is allowed to use regardless of the field being public school property). Palka having an administrative position and expanding Rob White's position into admin is not the best for students. The comment by Scot Graden in the Saline Patch seems to indicate how mixed up things are: "Right or wrong, the way a football program goes can change the energy in a building." Wrong Scot - I thought the school was the place to educate kids first. A school's primary purpose is not to generate athletes - bringing the athletic department into the administration is not the best thing for academics. What qualifications do either of them have when is comes to managing a school? Will we see the already ridiculously low academic standards for athletes go even lower. Will we see an honors PE class? And with respect to the fiscal responsibility -- in the end, have we reduced the admin costs for the school? Saline had 1 principal, 2 assistant principals and 1 AD. Now we'll have 1 - to be filled principal, 1 assistant and 2 - part-time assistants and 2 part-time AD's (one the head and one asst.). Did we stay within the budget? It would be nice if the article written about Palka took on some of the real questions raised by this arrangement instead of being written from the standpoint of ignorance is bliss.


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

Our previous principal went to a school district in northern Michigan to be a superintendent. Our previous assistant principal is now our current principal leaving an open assistant principal position.

the leprachaun

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 11:29 a.m.

The how come we have 2 assistant principals now but because of budget cuts last year we were limited to one and a dean of students?

the leprachaun

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 11:47 p.m.

Didn't we cut the assistant principal to save money. How can we hire a new assistant principle but I still don't have a history textbook because of "budget cuts"?


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

Come on Mr. Cunningham, your reply to me doesn't hold water. You know darn well what's going on here. Why don't you get this story on the main page and watch the comments start pouring in. Like Salineguy says, were all these positions posted? Let's see the details of the contract like the bottom line. What exactly is Mr.Palka's salary?


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Additional information related to the hire, as noted at foxtoledo - <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> A quote from the new hire in the article - ... In fact, he said he didn't think he'd ever leave Whitmer until he was approached by Saline officials 2 1/2 weeks ago and was made an offer he couldn't refuse ... For the purpose of transparency, 2 1/2 weeks ago places the 'offer' around the first week of December. What was the offer? Was it in writing? Were these positions (all three) posted following guidelines that are in place for the district and for public institutions? Were other individuals formally interviewed for these positions? Exactly when did the previous coach resign (it was a surprise to me and most certainly was not well publiciized - this is an opinion, by the way; perhaps it was well publicized and I somehow missed this news)? We as community members deserve to know that the district performed due diligence and followed all poilcy guidlines. would seem to me that an openings in a district such as our would have hundreds of candidates applying. How many applicants were there?


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 1:42 a.m.

If you read the first paragraph of this article, it says Glennie resigned in late November. Yes, it may not have been publicized that well, but he announced his resignation to the team, in a meeting, in late November.


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Here you go - one can assume that the salary in Saline will be similar to what I have posted below for other Saline Adminstators / Coaches. All are referenced from public sites so as to not excite the censorship patrol for stating something that is 'specualtive' in nature (it is not). The following databases: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and <a href=",000.pdf" rel='nofollow'>,000.pdf</a> confirm a couple of things that may in fact be relevant. Palka as coach/teacher made $70, 380.17 in gross pay in 2010. His wife is an elementary school teacher in the same district making gross wages of $40, 441.90 and is the Varsity Volleyball coach. The gross pay for at least one Assistant Principal, the AD and a few coaches / teachers was over $100K. Look like an upgrade coming for sure in terms of salary.


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

To entice Mr. Palka, who was a Phys Ed teacher, you hand him a newly created position of Asst. AD AND an Asst. Principal job!!! What are his qualifications for these positions? Mr. Dearing and Mr. Cunningham why don't you dig up the salary and post that, it's only a matter of time before it's present and public. This subject is going to take some major heat, I can feel it now.

Pete Cunningham

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

I'd say being a head coach of a Division II college football team and a recruiting coordinator for a Division I college football team suffice as experience in administrative positions, no? To be an administrator and coach is clearly an upward move, but not an uncommon one.


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

Let me try again as apparently responding to a direct quote from the article and questioning its veracity by using an abbreviation commonly used to reference when someone is being less than forthright and piling it up did not pass muster with the censorship patrol (although no reference to the personal life or family of someone who is the subject of coverage was made as you indicate). The Saline Administration in general, and Mr. Grade in particular pride themselves being transparent. Not one but two individuals were hired as principals with no experience in these positions. A new position of Assistant Athletic Director was created. Things just don't add up. Delete if you like, Mr. Dearing. either that or help me write a comment that you find acceptable.

Tony Dearing

Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Comments were removed because they violated our conversation guidelines. Please do not post comments that include profanity or abbreviations that represent profanity. We also ask people not to post comments that refer to the personal life or family of someone who is the subject of coverage.


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

Sorry, forgot one more thing. Let's give you one more position to sweeten the pot. Would you like to be the Assistant AD as well. Can't wait to see this salary! Scot, why don't you fill us in on that one?


Wed, Dec 21, 2011 : 12:16 a.m.

This is exactly what we as Saline Hornets need! I can't wait to get to know him, and play for him!