The truck backed up and the head football coach at Cardinal Newman High School climbed aboard. The truck then went to Montgomery, and did the same thing. Then the truck headed to Elsie Allen, Casa Grande, Healdsburg, Rancho Cotate, Analy and Windsor, collecting head coaches the same way Zsa Zsa Gabor collected nine husbands — you can never have too many.
But in this case eight football head coaching vacancies in one offseason in a small county does seem like too many. Feels awkward, uncomfortable even, as if this is a stampede to the exits of a movie theater. Attempting to connect them all to a common thread, however, is a fool’s errand. Some left because of advancing age, financial stress, family needs, while others were pushed out or knew they were a temporary bridge to a hopeful permanency.
“This is pretty crazy, never seen anything like it,” said Tom Kirkpatrick, who left Windsor after two years. You almost want to award Maria Carrillo, El Molino, Piner, St. Vincent, Petaluma and Santa Rosa for being beacons of stability because no one fled their campuses, as if this is somehow a grand accomplishment.
What these vacancies do suggest is an awkward, unsettling glimpse of the future. That the days of a head coach staying in one place for 33 years like Jason Franci did at Montgomery are becoming less and less likely, if not impossible to imagine. Drawing to a close is this simple, yet apparently ancient notion — a high school school and its football coach can feed each other so much security and contentment they can live happily ever after together.
Perspective is essential in understanding this premise. Lending such an overarching view are two veteran coaches, Kirkpatrick and Petaluma coach Rick Krist, two men who have experienced longevity. Krist has been there 28 years, the last eight as head coach. Kirkpatrick is a Healdsburg legend who spent 19 years at that school before the two at Windsor.
The reasons for the disappearance of stability are many but any explanation of this transitory state has to begin with the difficult marriage of two factors — money and hours.
At a public school the head coach and his staff are “at-will” employees, hired year-to-year. Think of that term as “at our pleasure” and now one can begin to erect the first shaky pillar of support. The money is the second pillar. Trent Herzog, recently dismissed at Casa Grande, started at $1,500 a year as an assistant and worked his way up to $4,200 annually in his 22nd and final year at the school.
“A lot of my coaches are volunteers,” Krist said. “So every year I have them all over to my house for dinner. That’s their payment.”
While his wife, Lori, is a terrific cook, the guys don’t coach for Krist because Lori makes a great enchilada.
Opposite the money are the hours spent to earn it.
“In the offseason,” Herzog said, “I worked five hours a day, five days a week. During the season it’s 10 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s 12-13 hours a week watching film.”
With those numbers, Herzog made $2.49 an hour coaching Casa Grande football last year.