Jason Portz, on the heels of one of the O'Fallon High School baseball program's most successful seasons, has resigned as the Panthers' head coach for personal reasons.
The Panthers won a school record 35 games in 2018, but suffered a premature end to their run at a state championship with a 3-0 loss to Chicago Sandburg at the IHSA Class 4A super-sectional in Champaign on June 4.
Portz led O'Fallon through 16 seasons, amassing a 469-140-2 record for a .768 winning percentage, a school record. His teams won 11 regional titles, five sectionals, and two super-sectionals. The Panthers finished in third place at the state tournament in 2006 and 2009.
He also has sent multiple players to college programs and the professional ranks, most recently former OTHS pitcher Chris Holba, who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 11th round of the 2018 MLB draft.
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O'Fallon District 203 Superintendent Darcy Benway confirmed on Wednesday Portz's resignation "for personal reasons." The board of education still must vote to accept the resignation and decide how a replacement will be found. In the meantime, Portz will continue with the district as a health, physical education and driver education teacher.
Portz was not available for comment.
Controversy has surrounded Portz's program, especially over the last year when it was learned that unauthorized improvements were made to a city-owned press box that could wind up costing the school district up to $80,000 to either undo or fix.
The press box at Blazier Field at Community Park originally was built in 2007 through an intergovernmental agreement between the city and school district. District 203 contributed $20,000 to the cost of construction while Portz and the "Diamond Boosters" raised the rest.
Two years later, the building fell out of compliance with Illinois' accessibility code when unfinished space above the lower-level concession stand was converted to a locker room. Water and sewer lines at the park also were tapped without city permits or knowledge of the school's administration, Benway said.
Moreover, the additional square footage triggered state and federal code requiring the upstairs be made accessible to people with disabilities. Those alterations weren't discovered until 2015, six years after they were completed.
The city waived utility tap-in fees, but disconnected water and sewer and ordered the locker room sealed off. Portz and his staff continued to use the area for storage, however, leading an anonymous caller to complain to the Illinois attorney general's office, which subsequently launched its own investigation.
FGM Architects, which has been paid $3,693 by the district to inspect the building improvements, estimated the cost of making the second floor accessible to people with disabilities at "somewhere between $65,000 and $80,000," Benway said in April. That may include installing an elevator.
O'Fallon City Administrator Walter Denton said there still is no time table as table as to when the attorney general's office would issue a ruling.
"We sent information to them months ago and they indicated at the time that they might come down and make a site visit," Denton said. "We've heard very little since and have nothing in writing."