Who would believe a baseball stadium would bring two football coaches together.
That’s just what happened when Andy met Bruce.
Watching Northwestern play Illinois in November of 2011 at Wrigley Field, Carmel football coach Andy Bitto happened to be sitting next to Bruce Kay, the recently retired Cary-Grove coach and Kay’s best friend, Earl Nightingale.
“We were lucky to get tickets in the end zone so we saw all the scores,” Bitto said of their seats, which were on the third base side of the stadium.
During that game, Bitto said he first offered Kay the job as Carmel’s offensive coordinator. Sort of.
“It was more tongue and cheek. I was half serious,” Bitto said.
Added Kay: “(The exchange) didn’t dominate my mind. It was more definitive (later).”
But on that chilly night 14 months ago, the seed was planted for a decision that is now official. Wednesday, Carmel announced Kay as the school’s offensive coordinator.
The move on paper appears to be a marriage made in option heaven: on one side, Carmel Catholic, coming off its first three-win season since 1996, adds a state championship-winning coach (2009) who shares the same belief structure on offensive football — run the football, then run some more. On the other side, Kay, who retired as Cary-Grove football coach after the 2010 season and as athletic director in June of 2011, gets back into coaching after a one-year layoff.
“I don’t have to go in there and convince them of the positives of flex bone triple option football,” Kay said, who spent 22 years as Cary-Grove head coach, finishing with a record of 168-68. “Carmel is in a different league with different coaches. To be in a different environment, that was attractive to me.”
After leaving the Trojans program, Kay spent a year as an offensive consultant to North Park College in 2011. It kept him in football, but without the the day-to-day responsibilities of being in charge which wore him out his final years at Cary-Grove.
“I was quite tired when I left (Cary-Grove),” Kay said. “I was obsessive with it and didn’t want to get back to that state. So I didn’t want to hurry into making a decision. I was cautious.”
Which is why the Carmel-Kay marriage took months to consummate. Kay was out of football during 2012 season, spending time in Hilton Island, South Carolina. Bitto stayed in touch with Kay through mutual coaching friend and former Crystal Lake Central coach Bill Mack.
It was during the playoffs this past November when Bitto and Kay met again. They attended the Notre Dame-Lake Forest 6A quarterfinal game together in Niles, where they talked football and life.
“My sons (Jack and Peter) were there with us. We knew we always got along,” Bitto said. “He wanted to know how much leeway I would give him and let him coach. I get (assistants) I can trust and let them work.”
Convinced Bitto — who acted as Carmel’s offensive coordinator in 2012 — would allow him to run the offense, Kay was sold. The day after his former school lost in the 6A title game on Nov. 24, Kay placed a call to accept Bitto’s longstanding offer to become the Corsairs offensive coordinator.
There is plenty of time to flesh out just how Kay’s ideas will impact Carmel’s offense in 2013.
“Option 2.0,” Bitto said. “It’s a scenario where we gain 20 years of option experience in one person. We might run the football more.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.