Jun. 10—LAWRENCE — It's very easy to dislike Central Catholic High, at least when it comes to athletics.
They attract student-athletes from within a 20-mile radius. The often get the best athletes in said cities and towns, thus hurting their programs. And, most of all, they win.
Relatively speaking, they are the New England Patriots and Alabama football.
There is one difference, though, particularly over the last decade.
Ernie DiFiore, who has been the Central Catholic athletic director the last decade, is not Bill Belichick or Nick Saban. In fact, he's the polar opposite.
He's liked. In most cases, a lot.
The anti-Central Catholic sentiment isn't as loud probably because of DiFiore, who announced Wednesday afternoon that he was going to step down as athletic director due to family and health considerations.
Not only does Central Catholic lose a real soldier, after 31 years at the school, but the Merrimack Valley Conference loses its chairman, a position DiFiore has held the last year.
"Ernie deserves a lot of credit for sports being played this year in the Merrimack Valley," said Tewksbury athletic director Ron Drouin, who is the vice chairman of the MVC.
"He was great with the superintendents and convincing them we could do this," said Drouin. "Honestly, the volleyball season (in the fall) was his doing."
While DiFiore can be an imposing figure at 6-foot-2, but his personality is the opposite.
"He has a way about him, winning people over with his style," said Drouin. "He has a very calm demeanor. He has a way of making you believe everything is going to be OK. This is a big loss for not only Central, but all of us."
That's a great description, basically a lovable Teddy bear.
Central Catholic president Chris Sullivan said he tried a few times this week to get DiFiore to change his mind.
It was a decision that he and wife, Dana, weren't going to change.
"I need to focus on my family and my health," said DiFiore. "It wasn't an easy decision, but it's the right one for me right now."
DiFiore called Drouin about 30 minutes before his resignation was announced on the The Eagle-Tribune Website — www.eagletribune.com.
"I was shocked. I still am shocked. He's a special person, someone I'm very close with on and off the job," said Drouin. "But I get it.
"This can be an emotionally-draining job. It's weekends. It's nights. It's phone calls while at the dinner table with your family," said Drouin. "The only day I am truly off is Christmas day. I understand totally why he's leaving."
It's pretty clear when Central loses, many around the Merrimack Valley cheer. But this is different. We all lose on this one.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.