By Adam Baum, Cincinnati.com
Longtime Elder High School athletic director Dave Dabbelt retired on June 30 after 27 years at the helm and turned over the keys to a familiar face.
Kevin Espelage, a 1991 Elder grad who’s worked at the school for the last 18 years, was officially introduced Tuesday as Dabbelt’s successor.
Espelage, who as a student played football, basketball and baseball, spent the last two years as an assistant athletic director in preparation for the position.
“I think this is following a path of progression,” said Espelage, who’s coached baseball and football for the Panthers. “I don’t know that I envisioned this when I first got here 18 years ago on this side of the fence as a teacher and a coach. I did get funneled in this direction maybe 10 years ago … you hear from coaches and teachers, saying ‘Hey, you might make a good AD someday.’ I guess it’s been in the cards.”
Espelage said the reality of the job hit him quickly.
“Last week, my first Friday, we had The Pit double booked, so I’m doing a great job,” he laughed. “It was a good way to start the morning, but we were able to manage it and everyone was still able to have their events going on.
“And I didn’t call Dave right away. I didn’t. He’ll get enough of his ‘I told you so’ stories. It was funny.”
Espelage acknowledged that minor mishaps will inevitably happen, “but at the end of the day it’s just making sure the kids get a chance to compete.”
Espelage won’t be flying solo either. He has a wing man in Phil Bengel.
“Phil Bengel has accepted the job as assistant AD,” said Espelage. “Longtime freshman basketball coach, he’ll continue in that. He’ll still continue to be a color commentator on our radio broadcasts as well. He’s jumped up to fill that role and I’m excited about the perspective he brings to the table.”