Heller: Chaparral job has its pitfalls - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Heller: Chaparral job has its pitfalls

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Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 5:10 pm | Updated: 7:48 pm, Tue May 29, 2012.

It's one of the biggest and best coaching jobs in Arizona's high school landscape. There's a good case to be made that it's become the best.

That means the Chaparral football vacancy is going to draw a crowd of resumés. Maybe 100 with out-of-state interest rising fast as word spreads quickly these days.

Since the Firebirds have won three consecutive state championships and sent dozens of kids to play college football at varying levels, this is obviously a job surrounded by a gold mine of attention, exposure, talent, facilities and resources. None of those are going away anytime soon, and, in fact, were enhanced during Charlie Ragle's five years.

And that's what should make many pause before racing to the Post Office with a resume and references.

This job, like most high school head coaching positions, is heavy on everything other than football, moreso than others, but with issues on the other side of the spectrum from Dobson, Westwood or even Gilbert.

It's about fundraising to help pay for those new facilities. It's about managing parents which is a difficult proposition in Scottsdale (especially a few who throw their money around with expectations in return), the booster club, getting kids exposure to college suitors (which now includes Ragle himself at the University of Arizona), lots of media attention, and, with it, scrutiny.

That's the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Now, let's throw in the weight room, offseason work, passing leagues, football preparations, film and eligibility: All the stuff every head coach has to handle.

On Wednesday Ragle spoke at length about the job he's leaving behind. Proud and unapologetic in how he handled the program in his five years, he also referred to it as a "business" multiple times. He was quick to acknowledge the current state of this program and accompanying strings attached are far more difficult to handle than most (or any) schools here.

Meanwhile, annual expectations go beyond playoff spots and maybe a few deep playoff runs. It's about winning championships, or else.

The Firebirds should still move up to Division I beginning in 2013 because it offers a little better depth of competition at the top, and Division II offers about three programs which could give Chaparral a game (Peoria Centennial, Marcos de Niza and maybe Tucson Salpointe or Notre Dame on occasion).

So unless the Firebirds move up to Division I and do to those schools what it did in 5A Division II and Division II, respectively, the past three years, there will have been no growth, only maintenance or decline.

In some ways it's a no-win proposition.

In addition to the on-field qualifications and experience the past several years, there's a reason why Ragle heartily endorsed offensive coordinator Dave Huffine to principal Gayle Holland late this week. Or, despite an overall struggling record at Desert Mountain, former Chaparral assistant Tony Tabor is worth a look, though it's unclear if he's even interested.

On-field success aside, it's because Huffine has seen first-hand what it takes, and Tabor, a former Chaparral assistant and close friend of Ragle for years, has dealt with the same level of off-field dynamics with parents, money and overzealous "supporters" at Desert Mountain for six years. For both Ragle and Tabor at their respective schools, it's worked well sometimes, and often been miserable.

Like Ragle did when he followed Ron Estabrook's three championships, the next guy is following some massive footprints. There are plenty of well-known, high-quality coaches who'd be interested or qualified for this job, but can they continue to run themselves into the ground as CEO of this "business," instead of coaching kids?

Would they want to?

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