BENTON HARBOR — Elliot Uzelac, who has guided Benton Harbor football to a stunning revival, has resigned.
Uzelac declined comment at this time, only saying he has concerns about the direction of the school and issues with the Benton Harbor school board.
The coach informed the team Friday afternoon before he left to coach in the ADDIX All-Star Football Game at Hope College in Holland on Friday evening.
Uzelac came under fire last spring concerning inappropriate texts he sent to some of his coaches in a group text after the school’s May prom.
He apologized for the comments. Then-superintendent Shelly Walker directed him and his staff to attend cultural sensitivity training.
District officials were unvailable for comment Friday night, the night of high school commencement.
Uzelac’s departure is the latest in a handful of positions to become vacant this spring.
In April, Athletic Director Tray Crusciel and Principal Don Pearson resigned, citing a stressful work environment at Benton Harbor.
One of Uzelac’s assistant coaches, Jerry Diorio, left to become head football coach at Battle Creek Lakeview.
Uzelac, the former St. Joseph head coach, took over Benton Harbor football in 2015. From 2007 to 2014, Benton Harbor won just four games.
The Tigers posted a 6-5 record in Uzelac’s first season, reached the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs and fell in a Division 4 district championship game.
That team made national news and was rewarded with a trip to Walt Disney World in spring 2016. Uzelac was named Division 3-4 Coach of the Year by the Associated Press and Michigan High School Football Coach of the Year by the Detroit Lions.
The program took another monster step forward in 2016, posting an undefeated season before falling by a point in a Division 4 district final.
In 2017, Benton Harbor started slow, losing its first three games. But the team won five of its remaining six games, only to fall to Edwardsburg in the first round of the playoffs.
Uzelac was 21-11 in his three seasons as coach.
He led a similar turnaround in St. Joseph. Uzelac took over the Bears in 2006. St. Joseph was coming off a winless season, and Uzelac guided them to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Uzelac’s 2007 and 2008 squads lost just two games, and reached the Division 3 state semifinals in 2007. Both those teams were undefeated in the regular season.
He was the head coach at Western Michigan University from 1975-81 and at the United States Naval Academy from 1987-89.