Saline hires football coach Joe Palka from Ohio powerhouse
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.
Photo courtesy of Saline Athletics
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 AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.