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Shakeup in RHS football coaching ranks puzzling

Apr 9, 2013 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

It's fourth and long for the Riverton Wolverine football team.

Continuing with a gridiron metaphor, it seems like the program -- after a successful regular season and a Class 3-A East conference title -- is deep in its own territory, trailing, and it's late in the game.

Since Riverton's fall season ended with a heartbreaking first-round loss to Cody in the Class 3-A state playoffs, Wolverine head coach Jeremy McCormick asked three experienced coaches to not return to the high school football program next season.

And now, more bad news for the Wolverines.

Three more experienced coaches have resigned, having made the decision that it is in their best interests to not return to coach football next season.

These coaches, keep in mind, continue to coach our athletes in other sports at various levels, help with tournaments and activities, participate in Wolverine football fundraising, and many continue to teach our kids in our classrooms.

When you visit with them, they all tell you the same thing. They love coaching.

Those who resigned will tell you it was a gut-wrenching decision to not coach football next season.

In fact, they say, because of the players, resigning was one of the hardest things they have ever done. You hear discussion of an uneasy, years-long, relationship with their head coach but even that, some say, has improved.

But they all add that the personnel moves McCormick made in letting three "quality" coaches go earlier have added to the fallout.

And the resignation train may not be over. When the dust settles, there may be just one head coach and one assistant coach returning from last year's staff of nine Wolverine coaches.

Those of us who have followed the Wolverines for nearly 40 years have never seen anything like this.

What's up?

Digging a bit deeper, you understand that, for years perhaps, this group of coaches has not accomplished the one thing that the coaches have asked their players to execute practice after practice, game after game and season after season: Become a unified team.

RHS activities director Jeremy Hill stands behind McCormick and said that he is looking forward to a new season. Monday, Hill said that he would recommend McCormick be rehired for what would be his sixth season, and that the hiring process for assistant coaches would start Tuesday. Hill said he felt confident that he would be able to fill the open football positions, noting that McCormick might be looking to trim the number of coaches the team will have. Riverton, according to Hill, is one of the higher-staffed Class 3-A programs in Wyoming. The Riverton school board will consider Hill's recommendations.

You have to wonder whether there are four to six varsity-capable football coaches waiting to sign on to Riverton's current program. Hill says that there has been interest expressed in the open assistant varsity coaching positions and that the former varsity assistant coaches would have the school's blessing to coach football at sub-varsity levels.

The Ranger reached out to Coach McCormick repeatedly Monday evening and again Tuesday morning via voice mail and text messages, but messages were not returned.

Of course the head coach should have the authority to choose his assistants and lead that group to become a cohesive, goal-achieving unit. But this is not college level athletics, and it's a fair question to ask why so many of these coaches, who succeed in their other coaching assignments and, apparently, in their relationships with other coaching peers, aren't being allowed, or are not motivated, to continue coaching varsity football.

With football camps just weeks away, a summer of preparation and August practices not far off, there is, at the very least, uncertainty in the RHS football program.

It really is fourth and long.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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