Mount Carmel announced Friday that longtime football coach Frank Lenti had retired and would be replaced by Jordan Lynch.
The school’s statement to alumni painted it as a graceful passing of the torch from a coaching legend to one of his best players. In reality, that is far from the truth. Lenti said that he is not retiring and that he wanted to stay on as coach.
Mount Carmel’s statement said that Lenti “will no longer be coaching at Mount Carmel” but that he would continue in his role as director of advancement.
Minutes later, Lenti sent out his own statement:
“While I had hoped to honor the commitment I had given the Mount Carmel football student-athletes and their families that I would coach them thru [sic] their time at Mount Carmel, the administration has decided otherwise. Contrary to what some may have heard, I am not retiring. I love coaching high school football and may pursue that at some point in the future. I will honor my commitment to Mount Carmel and will resume my daily duties in the Development Department for the time being.”
The move did not come out of nowhere. Rumors swirled all season that Mount Carmel would make a coaching change if the Caravan didn’t make the playoffs. They started the season 3-3, but most of those games were without senior quarterback/running back Alek Thomas.
Thomas, one of the best high school baseball players in the country, was participating in an international baseball tournament. With Thomas back, Mount Carmel reeled off five consecutive victories, advancing to the Class 7A state semifinals, where it lost to Lake Zurich 14-7. The Caravan finished 9-4.
Jordan Cousert, a 2017 Mount Carmel graduate, said he was “very heartbroken” when he heard that Lenti had lost his coaching job.
“I planned to go to Mount Carmel before I went back [to college at William Penn] to talk with Coach Frank about what he had in store for next season,” Cousert said. “He is like a father figure to me and my teammates. I wish him nothing but the best. It was truly an honor to play for him.”
Mount Carmel alum and current NIU player Michael Kennedy wasn’t surprised about the move.
“I’m excited for Jordan Lynch,” Kennedy said. “It’s no surprise to me that [Lenti] isn’t the head coach anymore, Mount Carmel has been going through a lot of changes lately.”
Mount Carmel has had several high-profile players transfer out in recent years, most heading to prep schools. The school also has recently seen its dominance heavily challenged by dynamic young coaches at Catholic League rivals Loyola and Brother Rice.
The rise of Phillips also has changed the perception of Lenti and Mount Carmel in the city. Just five years ago, it is likely that several of Phillips’ current star players would have enrolled at Mount Carmel instead.
Terrance Taylor, Phillips’ top defensive player and an All-Public League and All-Area player, transferred from Mount Carmel after his junior year.
Lenti, a 1969 Mount Carmel graduate, is the winningest football coach in state history (374-77). He has won 11 state championships, had a streak of 11 consecutive Catholic League championships and won six Prep Bowl titles. He was hired in 1984.
Lynch is a 2009 Mount Carmel graduate and a former Heisman Trophy finalist. He was the running backs coach at Northern Illinois.
As a player, Lynch led the Huskies to a MAC championship and four consecutive bowl appearances, including the Orange Bowl in 2013.
Mount Carmel’s statement to alumni expressed gratitude to Lenti while looking toward the future:
“We are incredibly grateful for Frank’s decades of dedication to Mount Carmel and wish Jordan the best of luck in the upcoming season.”