Mount Carmel pushes out legendary football coach Frank Lenti

Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti calls in a play against Morgan Park. | Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

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.”

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72 comments

  • David4456

    When my son was a freshman at Mount Carmel, I volunteered to help coach volleyball. Coach Lenti interviewed me and I realized that he was screening me to protect the boys from a possible sexual predator. I came away with the feeling that Frank Lenti was a fine athletic director and a man who inspires the people he meets, adults as well as young people. My son transferred after one year because I wanted more demanding academics for him.

  • Curtis turpen

    EAST ST.LOUIS welcomes the opportunity to play the Caravan this football season. SEE u soon.

  • M

    Coach Lenti has been there for everyone. Its outrageous that they did that to him. He is the best coach. Mc should not have done that. The changes are becoming more harsh than ever. When I was there everyone was together we were like a family. The years that i was there coach lenti was great!!

  • No Surprises Here

    Ha!
    No surprises here.
    Mt. Carmel has a long history of many things including not treating people very well and putting athletic excellence over a quality education.
    True leaders come from schools that prioritize education higher than athletics.
    Mt. Camel’s storied tradition has always put athletics ahead of academics and as they look to the future they’ve cleary decided to lock in another coach that could shine like Lenti as he is aging and to keep starry eyed alumni focused on entertaining them at the expense of providing a quality educational experience.
    Yes, Lenti was treated poorly but many young men and families have been treated the same! That’s life!
    Lots of other quality choices for young men!

  • Anonymous Person

    Lenti Should go to Simeon and become the head coach and Simeon would win a State title in less than 2 years because the coaches they have now all need to be fired because they don’t have a clue on how to coach

    • Jordan

      True the coaches at simeon are clueless but the offense of lentl would not work for the caliber of athlete there also. Simeon makes D1 players.

  • Ghost of Virgil Livers testicle

    Doesn’t seem right . Living up north didn’t get many chances to see them, when I did was always impressed with his kids sideline behavior and organization. Glad he spoke up about getting forced out. Hope he finds way back to coaching high school football is better with him in it.

  • Nate Turner

    Head Basketball Coach

  • CaravanDAD

    I am a MC parent. I have mixed feelings about all of this. Certainly, from a PR perspective, it has been a mess. That said, it amazes me that so many people think MC leadership have let the winningest coach in state history go for arbitrary reasons. One thing that tends to be true in life is that there are two sides to every story and the truth tends to be somewhere in the middle.

    As for some of the other comments about MC struggling as a school (football aside), this is just nonsense. The school is actually stronger than ever from an infrastructure and financial standpoint. Co-ed in 5 years? No way. Also, the idea that Marist, Rita or Rice are in “better” neighborhoods is crazy. This isn’t the 80’s gangland anymore—it’s a safe place. MC is by the lakeshore/Jackson part, immediately next to the future Obama presidential center, next to U Chicago and MSI, and close to downtown. In other words, it is in an interesting location for a kid to attend school. Rice and Marist?, I guess they are closer to Rainbow Cone on Western, so they have that going for them (just kidding, they are good schools too!).

    MC is one of the most diverse student bodies in all of Chicago. St Rita is the closest thing that compares. Parents that value diversity will recognize this if the look closely. Unfortunately, racial tension is a fact of life in the USA and it always comes up when different groups interact. That is not a Mount Carmel thing. It is an America thing and the only way to avoid it is to send your kids to an all-black or all-white school. I can say that my son has genuine friendships with kids from all backgrounds and races and it’s great.

    I wish coach Frank all the best moving forward. If he coaches again (seems probable) I will be pulling for his team. It is true that the school may not exist in its current form if not for him. That said, Jordan Lynch is a rising star and virtually everyone that knows him thinks he is a strong choice to move the football program forward. MC will play in the CCL Green next 2 years, but will likely be back in blue after that. They also very tough schedules nonetheless (next year that includes the likes of Maine South). Don’t be surprised when MC wins more state titles.

  • South Side Bear

    This is shocking to learn that Mount Carmel fired Frank Lenti. As a long time observer of high school football in Illinois, I have always paid close attention to Mount Carmel Football and Frank Lenti. He has been at Mt. Carmel for 34 years and was nearing the end of his career. Some people love Coach Frank. MANY people HATE Coach Frank. He has helped many young men go to college. But, his detractors will say that he is racist and plays favorites. The truth is some where in the middle. I would like to know the full story about why Coach Frank got forced out. Who on this message board knows the full story with details?

  • Public Powerhouses

    Many of my Public Powerhouses will welcome Frank Lenti to be their new Head Coach. Lenti will love having a big budget and 1,000 to 2,500 boys from which to build a team instead of the low budget and only 600 boys at Mount Carmel. I look for him to add strength to my Public Powerhouses with his coaching talent.

    • Mark Faustin

      You do realize that most of the students at Mt. Carmel are there because they want to play football at M.C, right? Many of there players are “talked into” playing at Mount Carmel. By the way, 80% of 600 students is way higher than 15% of 1000 CPS HS students at whatever HS you wanna name. Small budget? You think the alumni will ever allow a “small budget” to happen at M.C?

      • CaravanDAD

        The actual figure is closer to one-third of the kids that play football at MC, not 80%. It is true that roughly 80% participate on some type of athletic team, but a lot do not play football. It’s not just a football school.

  • Maze Jackson

    This story has been brewing for at least 2 years…there’s way more going on!

    https://chicagodefender.com/2015/12/23/black-parents-want-out-of-mt-carmel-football-mecca/

    • South Side Bear

      I read this story and this is outrageous. Whatever happened to Foster Williams? Is he playing college football?

  • MC Mom

    Wish Frank would of taken high road and said after some thought time to make a change. He is not Mount Carmel. My sons went there and I felt they all learned more than just the lessons taught on a football field They all played for him. .The Carmelites all showed vested interest in their lives and their decisions. The school Plays the Dances The mothers clubs. I am so disappointed in reading these comments. There is a time when change is needed. I hope they gave him the option of leaving with his head held high. We must remember a previous coach that he let go without similar options

  • Duke Carnoustie

    This is a huge mistake. They should have named the school after Lenti or made him the headmaster for all the football games he won. The man is a living legend and it was an honor to watch him coach. The priests need to take back control of this situation fast.

    High school football wont be the same. We lost a great one.

  • Rita Z

    Frank Lenti fired is like St. Joe’s firing Pingatore. These types of legends should be able to decide when and how they leave their jobs. Sure gives the entire administration and BofD at Mt. Carmel look absolutely foolish and uninformed. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Joliet Catholic show complete class when both Gordie Gillespie and Dan Sharp left on their own terms. Coach Lenti, take solace knowing that Mt. Carmel continues to flourish because of you. It will be interesting to see where the school, not the football program, goes from here.

  • Love of the game

    Great move by MC. My question is what took so long?

  • Slick

    Lenti was fired and one of his former players takes the job b4 Lenti has even had time to clear out his desk? Lets hope that Lynch spoke with Lenti & got his blessing b4 taking the job. If so, it would go a long way if they both make a statement saying so. If Lynch took the job though without speaking with Lenti then he is a clown who will never be respected in the coaching profession. Alot of un-answered questions. Maybe Lenti can save the Marian Catholic program & maybe even the school from closing by returning football to prominence (or even just respectability)

  • Chris

    I’ll take him coaching STL!

    • Paul

      As a St Laurence alum, I do not want Frank Lenti. Coach Blackman has done an incredible job. I can’t say enough about the job Coach has done at St Laurence. People in the media don’t realize the talent that exists on the lower levels of this program. Also people who coach at various Catholic Grammar Schools really like Coach Blackman. It would be a big mistake to hire Frank Lenti.

  • MC Pat

    Frank is a legend, but not everybody liked Frank Lenti at Mt. Carmel. I am an alum and played for Frank Lenti. I wasn’t too impressed and I played for other football coaches I admired much more like the majority of his stellar staff. Frank has had the very best assistant coaches in the State for 25 plus years. Frank had his disciples. Many of those disciples are posting on this board and I must tell you that I often thought he encouraged sycophant type behavior from the kids “men” that weren’t going to play D1 in college. He had a big ego. Either you kissed the ring or you didn’t play. I would also like to add that his ego got the school sued once by a former player and standout who had a major D1 scholarship opportunity botched by Lenti’s stubbornness. On many occasions I witnessed coach Frank take credit for big wins and blame the kids for big losses. A 17 year old player died on his watch in 1995. For all of the people crying foul, the truth is a great deal of the the alumni are very happy with this change. Frank Lenti is not Mt. Carmel by himself. Mt. Carmel is much bigger than one man and will continue in greatness. I agree with letting a legend going out with grace, but I am of the belief that Frank said no to the options given and Carmel ultimately decided to cut him loose. He preached the “we” not “me” philosophy, but I never once saw him practice that himself. He was very much into his image. Jordan Lynch coming back as coach is one of the best moves Mt. Carmel has ever made.

    • Tom watts

      Mc pat- I too am alum. You hit the nail on the head. The followers won’t accept this truth.

    • South Side Bear

      I heard from many people, parents, players, and opposing coaches that Coach Frank is racist and plays favorites. What is your opinion on this?

      • MC Pat

        That couldn’t be further from the truth. Frank is not a racist at all. He does play his favorites and some of those favorites do play if front of kids of color that are better athletes, but a racist he is not.

        • South Side Bear

          Coach Frank playing favorites (particularly kids from Beverly, Mount Greenwood, Oak Lawn and those from Mount Camel’s feeder program such as Christ the King, St. Christina) tarnishes his image. A LOT of talented kids left Mount Carmel because of this and for other reasons. Hopefully Jordan Lynch will not play favorites and give all kids a fair chance to compete for starting jobs.

        • South Side Bear

          MC Pat great analysis of Coach Frank. I hope Mount Carmel can move on from this.

  • Rich Phitswell

    How does Lynch take the job after being lied about the coach retiring when in fact he was forced out by Ned “Beatty” Hughs? Doesn’t seem like a there is any loyalty on Lynch’ part or integrity on the part of Hughs! Who can you trust going forward? With Marist, Brother Rice and St. Rita competing for the same students in better neighborhoods what is the incentive to go to MC in the future. Another “Corporate” mind trying to bring big business ideas in and they are always trying to set an example. Think there are some large egos now in administration that want to be #1 regardless of the outcome! Coed or close in the next few years?

  • Ralphie

    I’m no Mount Carmel supporter but no Coach ever has and maybe never will match Coach Franks record. If there ever was any coach in any sport who earned the right to leave on his terms it was him. This won’t go well for MC

  • Tom

    Nobody is irreplacable and LentI’s comments lead me to believe he feels he is entitled to the Head Football Coach job.
    Yes, he had an incredible run but Mt. Carmel does not owe him anything. They paid him well and put up with his arrogance and self-serving nature for years. Again, we are all replaceable.

  • PistolPete44

    Understand that Kids were not getting to the skilled positions in college and then to the NFL with Lenti’s system of wing runs. Was hurting recruiting which I thought was illegal under IHSA

    • Rich Phitswell

      Understand that most of these kids were taught to work as a team within the system. The majority of kids are not D1 caliber but many could continue to play at a D3 level if they desire. There is a requirement here at MC that each student coming in must choose a sport to play even if they have not played before. A lot of these kids learn from the ground up from freshman year on up. Some develope more than others; a small percentage continue on as athletes but do continue on a students which is the ultimate goal of this institution!

  • Football fan

    Learn the difference between the spelling of principle and principal.

  • JN

    I have one son playing at MC now and another about to enter as freshman. This is going to make think about our situation. Thirty thousand next year I dont know.

  • Can you handle the truth?

    With all due respect to the ST writer, I have two objections to this narrative of the general perception of MC football. Its incredible success has continued for many decades. I especially recall the dominant championship teams led by Brennan, Carey, Pinn etc. in ’50, ’51 & ’52, and the 1967 City Champs of Coach Frank Maloney, Connell, Trapp, Zuccarelli, Scumacher and Korosec. However, MC’s “dominance” is “being challenged” by Loyola’s “dynamic young coach” and program but it is most incongruous and disingenuous to rank perennially underachieving Bro. Rice with the surging Ramblers. Not with only one state title to their credit in 60 years. Add the fact that the only real Rice “icon” remains coach Mitchell, a product of Carmel. The Crusaders though are really good at water polo! Secondly, with one call to MC, the reporter could ascertain why certain players transferred out. It begs the question: “What we’re the basic circumstances?” The answer, that the majority of Caravan supporters know, is that there have been discipline issues with some, whose callous disrespect of coaches and teachers include one physically assaulting a staff member. And when said players were duly denied their scholarships, the parents cried foul because the generous free ride was over. Fact. Check it out. So don’t be too quick to celebrate the “ship” that a certain public school won this year, unless you can handle, or not, that truth. Maybe those players will make it to the NFL. If not, they won’t have the strong alumni support that Carmel provides its graduates. Finally, the foolish decision to oust Coach Frank is even more absurd considering that even after three losses going into the playoffs, he led those young men to a final four match that they barely lost. LZ was so beaten up in that game, that they couldn’t win the championship, losing in the title game for their only loss of the year. So in hindsight, Lenti had one of his best coaching years. And the first year president cuts the 11 time champion with 34 years at the helm. (11 crowns in the last 30 years!) Poor choice. Choices have consequences….

  • GR

    Same thing happen years ago in 1982 at De La Salle new principle came in Jerry Tokars out as Basketball coach after 25 + years of winning

  • Hammer

    Shame on the new “president” of MC for making this nonsensical decision of utter disloyalty to the greatest high school football coach in America! Apparently, his brother donated several million dollars to MC, so I guess this aristocratic elitist figures he is the King.He is not. MC is mainly a blue-collar school. This stupid, ill-advised move wreaks of a weak, self-serving agenda that unwisely ignores the greatest coaching legacy in Illinois. The “Lenti Legacy” of both Frank and Dave will endure forever, while the “Losing, Lame duck, Disloyal Leadership will fail and expire. Sad day for Mount Carmel.

  • GB

    I was going to send my twin nephews to Mount Carmel as their father (my half-brother) was an alum and played for Coach Lenti. I did some research and interviewed some staff late last year… The principal was demoted and the new person does not have the confidence or respect of staff. A slew of staff were cut and a few outstanding teachers were not asked back AND at least four other long tenured teachers chose to leave.

    Zero confidence in new president (who went to high school with Coach Lenti). It is not a selective enrollment (they let ayone in), and it is ruored that grades are given, not earned- students are now customers.

    It is not Lenti’s fault this new generation of athlete finds the M and the E in team.

    Absolutely pitiful and tragic to have this school run into the ground by empt-headed idiots.

  • Know the truth

    High schools don’t get rid of coaches for winning or losing. There were obviously some shenanigans going on and unfortunately religious institutions have a bad reputation for hiding the truth. We’ll never know the real reason why he is out at MC

  • KD

    I can assure you not one player or coach asked Taylor to stay when he went to Phillips. He embodied a “Me” guy not a “We” guy.

    • jordan

      and he got a ship with the move while mc should of went to the prep bowl….sucka!

      • MCTD12

        And in 5A! LOL MC would’ve shut out every team in 5A and could’ve played their Freshman team and still win 5A….oh, by the way, that kid will end up in jail

        • Jordan

          ???? Phillips played 2 8A teams on their way to an undefeated championship winning season. Moving up in class by the way. Jail? Wow! He is on his way to a D1 school now, not a D3 where MC send their kids.

  • KL Henry

    WOW feel sorry for Jordan. thats a tough spot Taking over for a LEGEND who gave you your shot. As an alumi parent I am VERY Very sorry to see Frank go. Frank BUILT that school. Good luck It will be coed in 5 years and off the radar in 10. When Lynch decides he has the same loyalty to Mt. Carmel and Frank that he shows today. When HE LEAVES for a better opportunity. Sad day. NO LOYALTY WHATSOVEVER. Frank, you are BETTER than that. HOW ABOUT GOING TO THE BEARS???? MT CARMEL COED 5 years. Mark my words. DYNASTY GONE

  • Ed Barker

    Moving Forward , a new tradition , and dynasty, school needs more students that pay full boat.

  • Norm

    Great. Now if DePaul would finally can his sister the city will be rolling.

    • Jordan

      Explain???

    • Southside Tommy

      So Chicago is better off without two of the most highly respected, storied contributors to Chicago sports and the thousands of student athletes lives they’ve touched and changed over the decades? You’re smoking a special strain of stupid stuff there Norm. Moron.

      • Cliff

        Norm’s dead on. DePaul needs to get rid of Jean Lenti Ponsetto and shed the Mom & Pop shop image if they want to compete in the BE. She’d be a great AD at a HS, just not in the BE conference

  • T. Land

    After MC was relegated from the Blue, the administration must have been looking for a change

    • Coach B

      You’re getting warmer. Everybody speaks of winning now but forgets all of the racial issues that vanished from the media just as quickly as they surfaced a couple of years ago…IN THE FOOTBALL PROGRAM. Then a whole slew of top tier kids transfer and suddenly they’re “me guys, not we guys”…But nothing could possibly be wrong with Carmel/Lenti? Kids aren’t WANTING to go/stay there anymore for a reason. Everybody gets used but people get tired of being misused. Just like Pingatore, there reaches a point where IT IS TIME TO MOVE ON. Some feel that the people that built it have the right to tear it down, others dont. No big deal here.

      • Sica East 89

        I have had friends go there, some won chips, some transferred. The one reoccurring theme that I hear all of the time is the racial issues there. It’s been over 30 years, and I’m still hearing the same crap when I did in the 80’s.. it’s time to move on and start a new culture there.
        It’s a new day and age, and Lenti was not cutting it. Especially when hundreds of kids have been transferring out of the school the last 10 years.. they needed some new blood and hopefully it will pan out.

      • Rikki

        There are plenty of kids who want to play at Carmel and I know plenty more who would love to attend Carmel, but can’t for financial or other reasons. It isn’t for every young man, but there is racial, ethnic, and economic diversity galore at our school. People who don’t know about it are just speculating and a lot of people just choose to hate Carmel because we are Carmel. Make no mistake, we are and always will be Mt. Carmel, a family and place where young men grow to be productive adults if they choose to take advantage of the opportunity.

    • South Side Bear

      Why is Mount Carmel dropping to the green division?

  • Jim

    Apologies to Mt Carmel priests, they hired a layperson for the first time to be the president. No wonder the school made this blunder! A priest would know better than to let go Lenti!

  • Jim

    Yes, let’s let move out the biggest winner in Illinois high school football history. Sounds like a good idea to me! Most wins in State history you say? Means nothing I guess.

    Lenti earned a lifetime job as coach. 99% of alumni I would guess would agree with that. Was this all decided by the Principle/ Priest? Who made this decision in the end? Priest knows more about football than the Lenti’s? Whaa?

    • Sica East 89

      You must have not heard of Nate Turners issue with the school?

      • Coach

        Nate Turner worked there for 4 years and never had a problem until his kid wasn’t the starting Qb. Then out of the blue we were all racist

        • Nate Turner

          Who is this? This is Nate Turner and there are some rascist still there ! My son had nothing to do with it! All of it had to do with RASCIST People that where in the staff! Must have been you. Those same people Turners on FRANK! Truth will come out soon Lolololo state who you are, if not don’t mention My name!

          • South Side Bear

            Nate Turner. What is the issue with the racist staff members at MC? Are they still working at MC?

          • Cornelius

            I was hoping that Howard Griffith would crush Lenti for negatively speaking on his son. But it didn’t happen as far as I know.

        • Nate Turner

          We?? Who in the hell are you? Hello speak up would you!!

        • b flo

          yep always “coming out of the blue” that pesky racism..clueless is no way to go through life..

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