New Steubenville athletic director navigates pandemic


STEUBENVILLE — Big Red football coach Reno Saccoccia once told his son-in-law that “loyalty is more important than anything. Surround yourself with people who are loyal to you.”

That was the best of many pieces of advice Saccoccia passed on to John Arlesic while he served as the head football coach at Streetsboro from 2004-2016. Following the 2016 campaign, Arlesic and his family packed their bags and moved to Steubenville, where he joined his father-in-law on the Big Red coaching staff.

When asked why was willing to become an assistant after being a head coach for so long, Arlesic didn’t hesitate to respond.

“My son wanted to play for his grandfather,” he said.

Ty Arlesic transferred as a junior and was the starting tight end for the 2017 championship squad. He currently is a sophomore at Youngstown State University.

Three years after bringing his wife, Gina, and his three children (Ty, Reagan and Julia) to Steubenville, John Arlesic is writing a new chapter. He was named the school’s athletic director earlier this year and officially began his duties on July 1.

“Other people who I thought could’ve done a great job of being the athletic director didn’t want to do it, and they’ve been at Big Red longer than I have,” he said. “If they didn’t want to do it, then I felt like I had the experience and knowledge of being able to be a solid athletic director and continue the tradition of Steubenville Big Red.

“I wasn’t looking to becoming a head coach again. I was looking for my next endeavor. Mentoring and leading Big Red athletics would be a great honor and challenge.”

John Arlesic, who graduated from Euclid High School in 1992, took over the reins from Lynn Meyer and shadowed her in May shortly before she retired. She was with Steubenville for the past 10 years (two as an assistant and eight as the athletic director) and was a part of the interview process in hiring John Arlesic.

He garnered a strong understanding of what needs to be done at a high-profile school, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was a little bit of everything,” John Arlesic said about his first day. “I had to make sure the purchases were in order. I had to make sure the schedules were correct, especially with all of the cancellations and things of that nature. I had to make sure all of our coaching spots were filled. It wasn’t just one, big giant thing. The biggest thing I had to do was put together a COVID-19 protocol for Big Red athletics.”

Even with his new gig, John Arlesic remains on the football coaching staff as a defensive back and assistant wide receiver coach, while teaching four math classes. Every day offers something new, sometimes surprising, and John Arlesic is doing all that he can to ensure everybody’s safety and answer their questions.

He believes all fall sports will be played. He just doesn’t know when that will be.

“The progression of where we’re at is where I thought we would be,” he continued. “The vagueness and uncertainty of everything going on right now is more hurtful for our young men and women than anything. As the governor came out with the reopening of schools, those guidelines were clear and straight forward. Once those guidelines were sent out, I thought our top leadership could have done the exact same thing for sports. I don’t think that’s been done.”

Until an official statement is released, John Arlesic just has to go through the motions. He is still learning the ins and outs every day, but being at Streetsboro for 13 years helped him prepare for this job.

“Being the head coach at Streetsboro was a great experience. My family and I grew a lot,” he said. “The goal was to make Streetsboro into a smaller Steubenville. Being here in my three short years, that was impossible and an unrealistic task, but that was the goal.

“By the time I left, we had five athletic directors in 13 years. A lot of times when there were no athletic directors, many of the other coaches and the school system looked to me to be the leader. So, I stepped up and enjoyed taking on that role. That is one of the reasons why I thought I could come in and be good athletic director for Big Red.”

John Arlesic finished with a 68-63 record at Streetsboro with a state playoff appearance in 2012. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach for Strongsboro for four years (1996-99) and another four at Warren G. Harding (2000-03). At Euclid, he was a quarterback and defensive back who later walked-on at Kent State University for a short period. He became a student assistant in 1995.

Despite never living in Steubenville prior to 2017, John Arlesic was very familiar with the area. He and his family visited the area frequently, roughly every other weekend.

“They really loved the transition of becoming a Big Red student,” he said about his children. “They really enjoy and love being a part of the Big Red nation.”

John Arlesic is a very, very busy person. He has full support from his wife with the numerous responsibilities. Even as the new athletic director and a math teacher, he is grateful to still coach football and help his father-in-law on the gridiron.

“I enjoy and appreciate the fact that (Superintendent Melinda) Young and (Principal Ted) Gorman have allowed me to continue coaching football because it gives me the levity I need to continue to do this job because this job can be overwhelming, especially with the pandemic going on,” John Arlesic said. “With those couple of hours I spent at football, it allows me to be with the athletes and lets me be who I’ve always been.”


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