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Farragut coach joins Freedom

His contract status up in the air, Mike Jalazo decides to fill the vacancy at the new Tampa school.

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 16, 2002


Faced with an unclear future at Admiral Farragut Academy, Mike Jalazo decided Monday to accept an offer to become Freedom's first head coach.

Jalazo, 32, coached at AFA for three years and led the Blue Jackets to their first undefeated season in 2000. Overall, Jalazo was 21-10, including the school's first playoff appearance last season.

However, with spring practices two weeks away, Jalazo was not yet extended a contract for the 2002 school year. He applied for openings at Countryside and Freedom.

"I was told there may be some changes (at Admiral Farragut) and the people that would come in might not necessarily want me there," Jalazo said. "That's fine. There are some great kids at Farragut and I wanted to stay there for the kids. I met with them (Monday) morning and it was hard to get the words out."

Admiral Farragut athletic director Mike Wells said the school's decision not to offer Jalazo a contract was because he didn't work on campus, not because of the job he did with the football team. Jalazo did hold a teaching position at AFA for the first two seasons before leaving to work for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

"When Mike first left the school, we made it clear that it might put his future in doubt," Wells said. "This school wants to have its coaches on campus, and the FHSAA (Florida High School Activities Association) wants that as well. It has no bearing on what he did as a football coach. He did a great job."

Wells said the school will look for a new coach immediately. He said the search will not be limited to teachers already on campus.

Jalazo has not yet decided whether he will return to teaching at Freedom or remain with the sheriff's office. He said he will continue to live in St. Petersburg.

Jalazo took over an Admiral Farragut program that was 0-18 in its two previous seasons. In his first season, AFA was 3-6. In 2000, the Blue Jackets were 11-0 but were ineligible for the playoffs because of their independent status.

The Blue Jackets were 7-3 last season and qualified for the playoffs as a district runner-up. They lost to Belle Glade Glades Day 72-7 in what turned out to be Jalazo's last game.

Now Jalazo faces another rebuilding project. Freedom is a new public school in growing north Tampa.

"It's a great opportunity for me at a brand new school," Jalazo said. "It's a huge school that's going to be (Class) 5A in a few years. It's a chance to start a program from scratch."

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