Steve Bogan steps down in the prime of his career after winning four CIF titles at South Hills.
A recent rash of resignations by several area high school football coaches has rocked the local landscape this week and in its wake left many fans, players and coaches scratching their heads in disbelief.
Since the 2011 football season ended, there have been seven resignations by area varsity football head coaches. This week alone, six coaches announced their decisions to step away from their posts and several of them well-known names in charge of some the Valley’s top programs. More troubling still is that there could be more on their way out.
So far, the tally includes Steve Bogan (South Hills), Matt Koffler (Rosemead), Darryl Thomas (Covina), James Wilson (Mountain View), Todd Quinsey (Glendora), Eric Podley (Bonita) and Bob Burt (Wilson).
“No, quite simply no,” said longtime Charter Oak head coach Lou Farrar when asked if he’d ever witnessed this many resignations at one time during his six decades as a coach in the area. “It concerns me because I know how important athletics are to overall school climate. But you have to understand where they’re coming from. I really understand why these guys are doing what they’re doing.”
The aftermath of the the resignations has led many people to express concern that there is a singular common denominator that led each coach to his decision. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however.
The desire to spend more time with family played a big role for some. Others were simply burned out. In Burt’s case, he was a one-year caretaker for a Wilson program that wanted stability and a well-respected veteran to groom what it hopes will be a long-term solution at head coach.
For Quinsey, the lack of a full-time job at Glendora forced him to make a decision for the betterment of his family. For Podley, who doubles as Bonita’s athletic director, the opportunity to turn the program over to a fledgling coach while remaining on staff as offensive coordinator was too good to pass up.
And yet despite all the reasons given for the glut of departures, a myriad of issues weighing on coaches have come to the forefront and had better be addressed or more offseasons like the current one are likely to follow.
In some cases, the reasons given for their decision to resign were the best-sounding way out after a culmination of a broad spectrum of problems pushed the coaches too far.
Concerns expressed to the Tribune by current and recently resigned coaches ranged from a perceived lack of appreciation from school administrators to budget cuts to taking anonymous criticism at various social media venues, including this newspaper’s popular prep sports blogs, to the growing duties of managing what’s become a year-around program all while dealing with oft-crazed parents.
“Matt Koffler is not burned out on football,” Arroyo coach Jim Singiser said. “He’s burned out on everything it takes to get to Friday night. I’m not putting words in any of these guys’ mouths. They can all speak for themselves. But the strain is what it takes just to get to Friday nights. And we all love Friday night. We all love being at practice and breaking down films and being with the other coaches and coaching up the kids, but it’s the other stuff that’s being magnified.
“So much of coaching today is about just getting to Friday night. With budgets, grades and parents, it’s about how hard it’s becoming to get your team to Friday night.”
Some have speculated that the 2008 elimination of the CIF association rule has played a major role in coaches burning out early now that sports like football can practice for nearly the entire calendar year. It should be noted that few if any of the coaches who resigned this offseason had altered their annual preparation schedule from what it was before the association rule was abolished. Most still had their teams lift weights in the winter, held spring practice in May, hit the passing tournament circuit during summer and started fall practice on August. But even that is quite a load for a coach to manage on a stipend that averaged between $2,000-3,500 per year.
This week’s slew of resignations has caught the attention CIF, but as Southern Section Director Information Thom Simmons explained it, there’s really not much that his organization can do other than enforce the rules that the member schools implement and express gratitude to the coaches who have decided to resign.
“If the competitiveness at the high school level in Southern California is causing coaches to burn out said, then I understand that,” Simmons said. “It’s a very competitive place to be a coach and the expectations are high. But there’s nothing that we in this office can do to alleviate that.
“If schools want to put a rule in place that says that offseason practices can no longer occur, then that’s going to be a decision for the schools to make and we can enforce it. But we can’t weigh into that simply because it’s not our decision to make.”
Due to the state’s economic crisis, coaches have taken on the added burden of having to hold more and more fundraisers in order to compensate for budget cuts. It’s become yet another in a long line of duties for coaches that gets amplified.
“The costs are going up, so now where I used to have to do two fundraisers, now I have to do eight or 10,” Singiser said. “I was washing cars on July 2. I’m 43-years-old and I have a wife and two kids, and I’m having to wash cars from 8 a.m. til 3 p.m. just to buy helmets. It’s not all on the administration. It’s not all on the parents. It’s the state of where everything is at right now.”
Although most coaches are quick to explain they are not in the business to make money, several told this newspaper that they are looking for compensation in other ways. Specifically, appreciation from administrators who have put an increased focus on attendance numbers and test scores. The appreciation, according to one local coach interviewed for this story, could be as simple as a pat on the back.
Managing coaches during such difficult times can be tough for administrators. Perhaps nobody does a better job of it locally than Charter Oak principal Kathie Wiard, who was once a softball and basketball coach.
“I’m definitely saddened,” Wiard said of this week’s events. “They’re all great guys and coaching is such a big part of what we do in our schools and these guys are great role models for our kids. To see them be so burned out that they have to make these choices, I just feel bad. It’s definitely a challenge for principals.
“My guess is that the principals really do (appreciate the coaches), but their time is busy like everybody else. We’re very fortunate at Charter Oak because we believe athletics are a very integral part of our school and community. I’m sure the other principals do, too.”
Wiard and several coaches mentioned the toll social media has taken on coaches, who are now open to criticism and second guessing from faceless entities. The explosion of Facebook, Twitter and blogs have added another dimension that didn’t exist as little as 10 years ago.
“I think the blogs kill us,” said Damien coach Greg Gano, who is in his fourth decade as an area coach. “People can email the principals without signing their name. And guess who’s got to answer to them, the coaches. I’m just not a blog guy. I think it does some good things, but it rips coaches. It’s an open invitation to rip coaches and people get tired of getting ripped.”
Even if this week’s resignations are more coincidence than a common theme, it’s very obvious that coaches are under burdens and pressures never seen before at any point in history. Some have been pushed to the brink and decided that it’s just not worth it. Others legitimately have a desire to spend more time with their family.
No matter the reason, the Valley has seen several stalwarts of the coaching profession walk away and that’s led to a lot of somber reactions from just about everyone.
“Coach Bogan was on the interview panel when I was hired and he’s had a large impact on me,” West Covina coach Mike Maggiore said. “Regardless of who won (when we played), and they won more than we did, he was always really gracious and a good guy. It kind of puts things in perspective even though things are going really well right now at West Covina.
“The coaches who coach 30-40 years, you don’t see a lot of them anymore. It’s just a lot different than it used to be 20-30 years ago. There’s a just a lot more to it. It’s tough on a family and tough on guys. I can see where you get a lot of burn out.”
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